No longer “universally revered”

6 12 2012

Simon Roughneen’s birthday article at the Christian Science Monitor begins with an interesting statement: “Though the royal institution once enjoyed a near-universal respect, recent political polarization has raised questions about the role of the monarchy and about the country’s future after his reign.” He goes on to observe that the “world’s longest-sitting monarch is portrayed as a widely-revered apolitical father-figure…”. Generally the international media has been complicit in this portrayal.

PPT isn’t sure there was ever “near-universal respect” at any time in the past, but the point that the monarchy’s populist position has been reduced by its obvious political interventionism in recent years is an useful observation.

Roughneen spends the article talking of succession and the possibilities of destabilization. He cites historian Thongchai Winichakul who says that at the end of the reign, “the royalist domination in politics will be in disarray, for sure.” The academic adds that the monarchy’s power may decline” but there will be a temptation for “tighter control during the transition…”.

He also quotes Paul Handley who rightly observes that the royalists behind the 2006 coup “cannot be happy that Thaksin’s sister [Yingluck Shinawatra] is prime minister…. I think that limits her ability to begin normalizing politics away from palace intrigue, if that was even in her ability and intention.”

Roughneen concludes: “So for now authorities perpetuate kingly mystique…”. It is as much a charade as a mystique. Times have changed, power is shifting, and the monarchy is struggling to keep its political power and authority.




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