A fortnight ago, academic e-sparing about Thailand livened up the Twittersphere. A recap is in order.
In his lengthy critique, “A Kingdom in Crisis – What’s All the Fuss About?”, ├Ьnaldi argues that Marshall’s book is an “important contribution” particularly as “it informs a wide audience about the damaging political role of the monarchy.”
In his book, Marshall, a former Reuters journalist and occasional New Mandala commentator, boldly attempts to chart Thailand’s complicated royal history. He concludes that succession politics will play a pivotal role in shaping Thailand’s future trajectory.
For its analysis, A Kingdom in Crisis has received many accolades, including: “…promises to permanently change the conversation,” “…lays bare what the Thai elite has tried to keep hidden for decades” and “finally someone says the unsayable.”
Marshall claims that he goes where others fear to tread. In his words:
Journalists and academics tend to tiptoe around the subject of the monarchy, confining their attentions to less controversial topics or simply repeating the traditional fables.
This is where things get interesting. ├Ьnaldi is concerned that Marshall does not give sufficient credit to other voices that have been writing and saying similar things for many years.
More specifically, ├Ьnaldi suggests that “Marshall is a journalist who did extensive research, but is not a scholar… to write a book on the monarchy without quoting the works of experts like Hewison, Pavin or Ji is careless, to say the least.”
Exiled Thai-British academic Ji Ungkaporn has also lashed out at Marshall, arguing “Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s book is misnamed because it has nothing to do with Thailand’s struggle for democracy.
“It will be a book which offers much entertainment to those who enjoy reading Hello! magazine. Marshall ignores progressive Thai writers… yet Lady Gaga gets a place in his bibliography!”
Marshall took to Twitter to demand a public apology from ├Ьnaldi, saying that he had essentially accused him of plagiarism.
– Andrew MacG Marshall (@zenjournalist) November 8, 2015
├Ьnaldi maintains he simply wanted Marshall to acknowledge the many other scholars and experts to whom he owes an intellectual debt.
At the end of the day, this brawling doesn’t look like it will diminish the book’s wider reception. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads suggest Marshall’s work is a popular and accessible introduction to Thailand’s political turmoil, especially for those only vaguely familiar with its intricacies.
What do New Mandala readers think?
Mish Khan is Associate Editor of New Mandala and Nicholas Farrelly is the co-founder of New Mandala.
Read New Mandala’s reviews of A Kingdom in Crisis here.