Recent discussions on New Mandala have veered back towards the role of the royal family in Thai political life. In an effort to keep these productive conversations going Paul Handley has kindly offered his paper for the 10th International Conference on Thai Studies held at Thammasat University, Bangkok from 9-11 January 2008. It is titled “Princes, Politicians, Bureaucrats, Generals: The Evolution of the Privy Council under the Constitutional Monarchy”.

The full paper (slightly revised since the Bangkok conference) is available here.

The summary is:

While generally thought of as advisory boards for monarchs, the Thai Privy Council in the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is more of a “Royal Interests Section” which not only collects information to provide to the king but also works actively to defend the monarchy’s position and discreetly propagate its message. The expansion from a handful of councillors to the current maximum of 19, and the types of people chosen to serve on it, reflect the evolution of the council’s role and the needs and interests of the king at various times. This paper outlines the development and composition of its members.

Further discussion of the many issues raised by Handley’s argument are, of course, very welcome.