Day 2 of the International Conference on Thai Studies here in Bangkok featured the keenly anticipated panels on the Thai monarchy. The first panel discussed some of the monarchy’s key supporting institutions – the abundantly rich Crown Property Bureau, the politically influential Privy Council, and the symbolically potent cult of King Chulalongkorn. The second panel discussed the lese majeste law. And the third, exceptionally crowded, panel discussed Paul Handley’s path-breaking biography of the king, The King Never Smiles.
I am happy to open the forum to others to comment on the content and effectiveness of these three panels.
From my point of view, like yesterday’s panel on sufficiency economy, they provided a relatively open forum for the expression and discussion of ideas about the role of the monarchy in the contemporary political system. Though the discussion was, at times, rather more restrained than some may have hoped the panels did represent an important breakthrough in international Thai studies. The key message of the panels was that the persistent self-censorship imposed by the international academic community can now be cast aside. The sky will not fall in if we talk freely and frankly about the king’s role in contemporary Thai politics. Let’s make sure this is a starting point for ongoing frank and public discussion.
As I did yesterday I invite others attending the conference to submit their comments, reflections and reports.
On the issue of Thai media covereage of the conference, my media monitors tell me that apart from the Bangkok Post report (which I have inserted as a comment to yesterday’s post) there has been no subtantial press coverage. Please let us know if you have spotted anything.