By Andrew MacGregor Marshall
“An explosive research that lays naked what the Thai elite have attempted to maintain hidden for many years. A clear-eyed view of what's particularly at stake in Thailand’s carrying on with turmoil.”—David Streckfuss, writer of Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-Majesté
“A well timed and hugely readable account of the awful political fact of the Land of Smiles. a necessary primer for each visitor.” —Joe Studwell, writer of How Asia Works
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Extra info for A Kingdom in Crisis: Royal Succession and the Struggle for Democracy in 21st Century Thailand
Once awakened, that rural electorate has not returned to sleep. (Stent, 2010) By 2006, as Bhumibol marked sixty years on the throne, bitter political conflict had erupted between Thaksin and Thailand’s traditional establishment. Just three months after the Diamond Jubilee festivities, the army overthrew Thaksin with the overwhelming support of the elite and the acquiescence of the king. The myth that during his reign Bhumibol had overseen a steady evolution from military dictatorship to sustainable democracy unravelled – suddenly it seemed that instead of making progress,Thailand had just being going round and round in circles.
Since brute force and oppression could destroy a community, some kind of legitimizing ideology was needed. The Khmer rulers at Angkor legitimized themselves via the blood cult of the devaraja god-king borrowed from Hinduism. But after Theravada Buddhism took hold in the region from the thirteenth century, the competence of leaders came to be assessed in terms of how well they appeared to conform to the ideal of the dhammaraja ruler, whose legitimacy is based on religious merit rather than sacred blood.
A slogan began to be shouted among one group of protesters and spread through the crowd until hundreds were chanting it over and over again. ’ It was a stunning moment, an event most Thais never dreamed would happen. Hundreds of people in the heart of the capital were shouting a crude insult and inflammatory accusation at an unthinkable target. The ‘bastard’ was King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Protesters also began scrawling anti-royal graffiti on the enclosure around the ruins of Zen. Serhat Ünaldi describes it as ‘a watershed moment in recent Thai history that has remained almost unnoticed in analyses of the country’s political crisis’: Writing graffiti on a wall which had been plastered with feel-good messages of unity, harmony and peace after the bloody crackdown political awakening 17 of May 19, 2010 was a means of countering the Bangkok elite’s escapist attempt of return to ‘normal’.