This academic jamboree takes place every three years. All the usual subjects were on the agenda – Buddhism, weaving, democracy, the history of Ayutthaya, agrarian relations, and Thai arts. But there was also something new and different. Three panels were devoted to discussion of the monarchy. Another two focused on the sufficiency economy. And more papers on monarchical topics were scattered around other sessions. Never before has this subject attracted such attention.Of course, it is odd to have any serious discussion of Thailand past and present without factoring in the monarchy. At previous conferences, the matter has been treated gingerly out of a mixture of deference and fear of legal complications. But the public presence of the monarchy in the life of the nation has expanded steadily over past decades. This is partly the result of the current long and remarkable reign, as reflected in the two massive celebrations of the 60th jubilee and 80th birthday over recent months. It is partly because the idea of the sufficiency economy has been placed in the public domain and vigorously promoted as a guide for policy-making that will affect everybody. And it is partly because some figures closely associated with the monarchic institution have had prominent roles in the tense political conflict of the past two years. More and more, the monarchy has become a subject that is impossible to leave out.

– Extracted from Chang Noi’s “Thai studies and the monarchy”, The Nation, 22 January 2008. Thanks to Craig for bringing this important report to our attention.