A Kingdom in Crisis reviewed I

5 10 2014

Readers will probably be eager to digest the first review (that PPT has seen) of A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century. The review of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s book is by David Eimer at the South China Morning Post. A book cannot be understood by its cover or by its reviews, and had PPT has yet to receive a copy, we will do no more than point out some of the interesting bits of the review.

Kingdom in crisisThe first point to make is that this book will probably sell well and be widely read. Marshall has produced some explosive and well-researched material in recent years at Zen Journalist, and he has worked hard to promote it through his extensive use of social media. The publishers at Zed Books are also likely to be strongly promoting it.

The review begins by noting that Thailand’s recent politics has been chaotic and “has veered from one political crisis to another,” and the country is now in the hands of “a junta with the Orwellian-sounding name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).” Eimer asks: “How did a country once regarded as a model of stability and economic growth for the rest of Southeast Asia come to this?” Obviously, a book that tries to make sense of the political roller-coaster come to a political dead-end is welcome.

Eimer states that this “new book pins the blame partly on the one man in Thailand no one is supposed to associate with politics, or even talk about in public: King Bhumibol Adulyadej.” He explains that, “[f]or Marshall, though, Bhumibol is little more than a stooge of the military and business elite.” Marshall’s book is said to reveal” how pliant and essentially powerless Bhumibol has been throughout his reign,” and reliant on the military.

That statement alone would have it banned in Thailand, although it will already be banned under the royalist military dictatorship that considers Marshall toxic for monarchist Thailand.

Marshall is said to argue that “the king has been deliberately elevated to his exalted position so that the traditional ruling classes can maintain their hold on power while denying true democracy to their fellow Thais.”

Most controversially – “incendiary” is another word used by the reviewer – “Marshall believes the political turmoil of recent years is intimately connected to the question of who will succeed the 86-year-old ailing sovereign, who has spent much of the past five years in hospital. Bhumibol’s official heir is Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, more noted in Thailand and elsewhere for his playboy image than his regal status.” Marshall reckons they want the dumpy Princess Sirindhorn to succeed to the throne.

Eimer mentions the lese majeste law, but his claim that “[n]o one knows the power of the lese majeste laws more than Marshall” is overdone and surely one that Marshall would reject given his support for the anti-lese majeste cause and the plight of those imprisoned under the law and the death in custody of Ampol Tangnopakul.

The May 2014 coup has left “Thailand’s future is deeply uncertain…”. That may seem like an odd characterization given that the military is intent on creating certainty and managing succession. Yet the intervention has not altered the fault lines or the essential conflicts that rumble deeply and underpin all that the military does. According to the review, Marshall thinks nothing much will change “until the king passes away” today or perhaps in a decade.

Eimer criticizes Marshall’s lack of attention to “the growing grass-roots opposition to the establishment – Thaksin’s most lasting legacy may be politicising a formerly placid population in just a decade” but says this “is still a timely analysis of Thailand’s dysfunctional system of government.” He says it is also a “brave book,” for  throwing “a harsh light on the political role played by the royal family in a country where it has long been allowed immunity from criticism, and that is a unique achievement.”

PPT can’t wait to read it.


Actions

Information

3 responses

26 10 2014
A Kingdom in Crisis reviewed IV | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century, go here, here and […]

13 11 2014
Banning a book | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] It si added that “police claimed that based on the book reviews published on the South China Morning Post, published on 4 October and the Independent, published on 8 October, the book contains content defaming the Thai […]

13 11 2014
Banning a book | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] on Wednesday.” It si added that “police claimed that based on the book reviews published on the South China Morning Post, published on 4 October and the Independent, published on 8 October, the book contains content defaming the Thai […]




%d bloggers like this: