Asia Sentinel has another article on Thailand’s bizarre royal politics. The article seems to be written by the same “correspondent” as an earlier piece on this topic.
Its main claim is that Thailand’s royalist elites “may be horrified by the prince’s behavior, but they have little recourse” and have jumped on board with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.
The article believes that “Thailand’s elites … [have] campaigned for years to prevent him from becoming king upon his father’s death…”. As we have said many times over the years, we are not convinced by this claim. We do acknowledge the Wikileaks cable that was unflattering, but as we said back then, despite their reservations about the prince, Prem and Siddhi Savetsila seemed resigned to his becoming king.
Even so, the claim of a succession struggle has motivated many observers and succession, once hardly mentioned, has become an important topic, discussed in whispers.
The observation that Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the Privy Council, appeared at the “Bike for Mom” event in August does show support for the prince. The claim that Prem had previously supported Princess Sirindhorn hasn’t seemed to us to carry any supporting evidence – not that evidence is easy to find in matters related to the secretive royal family.
We are also not sure that the “massive purge [is] to cement the prince’s position…”. It is a “reign of terror,” but the reasons for it remain unclear. The prince has been erratic and violent in the past, and the current events could be another example of that petulance, enacted with the power of the military behind him. If that is so, Thais should be very frightened.
We still wonder about social media claims that the military is cutting out the prince’s advisers and backers and may be is even forcibly cleaning up the prince’s act.
Whatever the real motivation behind the purges, deaths and alleged torture of those who died, we agree that these “are dark, evil days” in Thailand.
They are also days that threaten the military junta’s efforts to put a “prince-proof” political system in place. With the king gone, the military realized that it needed to have political arrangements in place that allow for an erratic monarch but allow for the monarchy to remain the keystone of the existing system of privilege and power.
These are very strange and very scary times.