Conventional wisdom has suggested for decades that the monarchy is the most important factor that stabilises Thai politics and its transition to democracy. We can find this view in so many publications from academic works to journalistic outputs.

The crisis since 2005 indicates the opposite.

The view that the monarchy is the political stabiliser is in fact only a particular historical perspective, say, of the royalist liberals based on their experiences through the transition from military rule (the 1960s) to the first decade of parliamentary democracy (mid-1980s to mid-1990s). Such a perspective forgets the entire period from the final twenty years of the absolute monarchy to the first twenty years after the 1932 Revolution. During the forty years before and after the 1932 Revolution, the monarchy was definitely not the stabiliser. In the political context of the time, the monarchy itself was the central issue of the battle between the status quo and change. It was one side of those years of political and civil war.

In fact, the explanation from the 1960s to the 1990s that the monarchy was the stabiliser is also dubious, especially if we take “the monarchy” not only as an individual king but a network of politically vested interests (a la McCargo’s) operated by various people and groups of royals and non-royals.

The current political crisis is no longer under the same conditions as during the period from the 1960s to the 1990s either. Popular, electoral politics has developed to the extent that people enjoy the benefits of the electoral system. Parliamentary democracy was being institutionalised. Meanwhile the monarchy (as a network of vested interests) is facing the most critical and uncertain transition that it has faced during the past 50 or 60 years.

It is obvious that the monarchy is at the heart of Thailand’s current political instability.