Financial Times on the monarchy

18 04 2010

The FT (18 April 2010) has an editorial on the monarchy. Some relevant points:

The differences being played out on the streets of Bangkok are part of a larger debate. But any chance of sensibly thrashing out Thailand’s constitutional arrangements is stymied by absurd lese-majesty laws. Designed to protect the king from insult, they have been abused to stifle political debate and muzzle any talk of how the institution might develop to accommodate a more democratic Thailand.

Even the symbol of monarchy is abused. Thailand’s “yellow shirts”, who portray themselves as staunch monarchists, occupied the international airport in 2008 with apparent impunity. Part of the campaign against Thaksin Shinawatra … resulted from his alleged republican leanings. One of his supposed affronts against the monarchy was to enact popular social welfare programmes…. Bringing a modicum of social provision to the poor was seen to trespass on the role of King Bhumibol, whose saintly image has been built partly on his charitable deeds. Whatever one thinks of Mr Thaksin, criticism on those grounds was facile.

[T]he institution has not always been able to play the benign role attributed to it. The king’s famed moral authority has hardly ensured political stability….

Thailand’s comfortable elite has been able to hide behind the banners of monarchy….