Saturday, March 31, 2007

Asia Times: A Return to Premocracy and Bureaucratic Rule in Thailand?

Back to the future in Thailand

Asia Times

By Rodney Tasker

CHIANG MAI, Thailand - Many commentators on Thailand's confusing political scene now dwell on post-election scenarios under a new constitution later this year. Will there be a non-elected prime minister, allowing the military to retain political control? Will the opposition Democrat Party make a return to power now that ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is out of sight? Or will Thaksin, on a groundswell of grassroots support, somehow regain the helm?

Such analyses miss the main political point, however, which
increasingly involves a small handful of non-professional politicians. That means His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Chief Privy Councilor Prem Tinsulanond, current interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, military-junta chief General Sonthi Boonyaratklin, and royal heir apparent Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

In other words, all serious talk about Thailand's future direction should now center squarely on the monarchy. Indeed, there are indications that the beloved 79-year-old King Bhumibol may be ailing after spinal surgery last year. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit now carries out many of the royal day-to-day duties, including making visits to the three mainly Muslim southernmost provinces where a bloody insurgency is still raging despite a softer line from Bangkok since last September's coup.

Naturally, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is not yet as highly revered by Thais as his father, who has been on the throne for more than 60 years, making him the world's longest-serving monarch. Compared with his popular outgoing younger sister Princess Sirindhorn, the crown prince is often regarded as remote. Over the past few years there have been subtle efforts, apparently led by the queen, to burnish his image.

But he will assuredly ascend to the throne, and therefore is working to secure the Thai population's confidence and adulation. That's perhaps why he is more in the public eye these days, performing his duties diligently at royal ceremonies and other public functions. For instance, he was front and center in media coverage of the palace's contribution to flood victims late last year.

Some observers have noticed that during at least one recent public appearance, the royal yellow flag that normally carries the king's initials instead was marked with Vajiralongkorn's. To complete the picture, there was another, smaller orange flag with the initials of his consort, Princess Srirasmi. She was a commoner, Srirasmi Mahidol na Ayuthaya, before being elevated to the rank of princess in 2006 - the year after she delivered the crown prince a baby boy, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.


I agree with the crux of this article, which is implying that royalist-bureaucratic-military forces will be managing the government from behind the scenes, at least for the time between now, the death of the king, the funeral ceremonies, the next coronation and through the first couple years of the next reign. This time frame could last up to five years.

The problem with this plan, however, is that the current ancient Premocrats have proven to be totally worthless and incapable of managing the country the last six months.

Can Thailand survive Premocracy II, the death of King Bumibol and a transition to King Vajiralongkorn without doing any serious political transformations along the way?

Or will we all fumble along like blind men without a cane hoping for the best?

Handley was right. In defense of their own interests and power, the palace and the royalists have not prepared Thailand for a post-Bumibol, a post-authoritarian age, and the masses are going to suffer because of it. Thailand may not be destroyed, but it will soon be going through a painful period of adjustment that could have prevented if the monarchy wasn't so bent on saving its own skin. Funny, Thailand is supposed to be a Buddhist country. Unfortunately, it is a Buddhist country where most people avoid the dhamma before their eyes.


hobby said...

I agree that succession will be a problem time, but at least Thaksin is out of the county for the time being (even if he is not entirely off the scene).

If Thaksin had been allowed to take control of the military, the country might have well changed it's name to Zimbabwe.

Whilst the political choices are poor, I at least hope the electorate will be mindful of Tasker's closing paragraph comments next time they are able to vote.

Anonymous said...

hobby, seriously, why do you think that Thaksin would have ruined the succession? Because he would support the princess over the prince, or the prince over the princess?

hobby said...

I have no idea who he would support -I'm just happy that he is not around because it is my opinion that he would have tried to manipulate either scenario to benefit himself.

Don't get me wrong - that alone was not enough for the coup, even though I don't doubt that it might have been in the minds of some of the coup instigators.

Anonymous said...

My biggest hope is that thaksin also reads this particular posting of this blog and maybe someday he will write his memoirs and tell his side of the story.

Anyone has thaksin's email address so we can forward this posting? Naturally he won't be happy to learn that someone predicted that his country will become another Zimbabwe but at least, he should be given a chance to explain and not deny him of any fair chance to do so.

Anonymous said...

hobby, all kingmakers manipulate successions to benefit themselves.

Pridi and Plaek did so in 1935, when they made Mom Chao Ananda Mahidol King. That ensured a decades worth of power for the leaders of the former People's Party.

In 1946, Plaek and Prince Rangsit Prayoonsak manipulated the investigations into King Ananda's death such that innocent scapegoats took the blame - thus allowing Prince Bhumibol to succeed without controversy. This ensured 60 years worth of military rule and palace power.

Anonymous said...

The ramblings of anonymous bloggers are as meaningful as a mosquito's bite on an elephant's arse- so don't hold your breath expecting him to respond.

The fact is we'll never be privvy to the behind the scenes going on and jostling for power. All this talk is pure speculation.