Flicking through Paul Handley‘s The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej earlier today, this retro-extract jumped out at me. I hope New Mandala readers find it as interesting as I did. The extract in question comes from page 370 and describes an episode from 1995.

The [Banharn Silpa-archa] government proved as bad as anyone expected. The deputy prime ministers, Samak [Sundaravej] and Thaksin [Shinawatra], fought openly for control of the capital and its traffic problems. After three weeks of bickering, Bhumibol let loose, ridiculing the two ministers for achieving nothing on traffic. “Between these two sides there is only talk, talk, talk, and they argue, argue, argue.” The stunning rebuke filled the headlines in every newspaper. For several days Thaksin, Samak, and Banharn leaped about frantically to display contrition. Banharn declared he would heed the king and coordinate the two ministers. Samak and Thaksin pledged to work together, even while denying they had not. Four days later they met the king for several hours, poring over city maps and details of problem zones. “We had never thought about what the king had recommended,” Thaksin said humbly.

Bhumibol had again exposed politicians as incompetent and unconcerned for the people.