A Kingdom in Crisis reviewed III

11 10 2014

PPT is continuing to post reviews of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century.

At The Independent, Andrew Buncombe reviews the book. He notes that “few people in Thailand … would publicly admit they’ve read the … book…”. To do so would risk lese majeste charges and a jail term. Buncombe states that this is not because the book “is particularly offensive. But it does make a striking case as it seeks to explain the origins of the political mayhem that has engulfed Thailand in recent years.”

He points out that “Marshall argues the situation can be understood only by seeing it as the jockeying by Thailand’s powerful and elite factions ahead of the succession…”. As Buncombe explains, “Thailand’s rules of succession” should mean that “the throne should pass to his son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.” What’s upset the plan?Kingdom in crisis

Marshall’s view is that “within the palace establishment – an expansive network of privy counsellors, advisers and minor royals – are those who would prefer it instead went to Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, one of his daughters.” Why the apparently jolly and unmarried princess? According to the review, “[m]any believe she would be easier to control…”. What’s at stake? It is “massive wealth of patronage and influence. Forbes magazine has estimated that King Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, oversees assets worth more than £18bn, and whoever succeeds him will be in charge of dispensing favours and influence.”

The review explains that Marshall states that Thailand’s crisis “in recent years is not solely about the succession issue,” but is a “struggle by the country’s poor to overturn the exploitation they have suffered at the hands of the elite.” He argues that there are “two entangled conflicts – an unacknowledged war of succession… and a struggle for equality and liberty that encompasses the whole country…”.

It is a bit odd to insist that succession issue is unacknowledged. Marshall has been responsible for a very broad and now pretty widely accepted successionist discourse, and he deserves credit for that. As Buncombe states, “Marshall … has been honing his theory for several years.” It seems that the succession argument is now the dominant discourse, and acknowledged by most observers of Thai politics. The debate is likely to be over how much of it to accept in a murky world of palace politics.


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

[…] For earlier PPT posts about reviews of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century, go here, here and here. […]

13 11 2014
Banning a book | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] 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 monarchy.” Reading the book itself probably is […]

13 11 2014
Banning a book | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] 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 monarchy.” Reading the book itself probably is too […]




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