Clearly somebody at The Economist has decided that it is time to nudge the public debate about Thai politics in more critical directions. One of their most recent articles about Thailand covers a fair amount of ground that has, until now, largely remained restricted to obscure corners of the Internet. No doubt this 3000-word analysis will cause much consternation in palace circles, and among many ordinary Thais; and according to The Bangkok Bugle the publishers have decided not to distribute this edition of the magazine in Thailand.
For obvious reasons, the entire article will require considered attention from New Mandala readers. Without (much) fear or favour, it offers a comprehensive analysis of the under-reported palace back-stories that influence Thai political life. I appreciate that almost everyone who cares about Thailand — regardless of their preconceptions about the subject matter — will want to read The Economist‘s article in full.
Nonetheless I have chosen one colourful extract that provides a sense of the article as a whole:
For Thais used to King Bhumibol’s virtues, which include monogamy, Buddhist piety and old-fashioned thrift, the crown prince is a poor substitute. Salacious stories of his private life are daily gossip. A video circulated widely in 2007 showed his third wife, known as the “royal consort”, at a formal dinner with the prince in a titillating state of undress. Diplomats say Prince Vajiralongkorn is unpredictable to the point of eccentricity: lavishing attention on his pet poodle Fu Fu, for example, who has military rank and, on occasion, sits among guests at gala dinners. In the 1980s his rumoured ties to the criminal underworld, which he denied in a newspaper interview, inspired the gangster nickname of “Sia O”.
Comments from New Mandala readers on this material, or anything else in the article, are very welcome here. I imagine that the Thai authorities will be working, perhaps quietly, to curtail the wide dissemination of this article’s contents. But for those of you who prefer your commentary in Thai I expect that this industrious mob will have a translation ready soon.
Then what? Will websites start being blocked if they mention the article? Right now it has yet to get much traction beyond a few English language blogs, but that could change quickly. Will the Thai government be forced into directly confronting the substance of The Economist‘s report? Does this critical account have any implications for the Reds still camping out in Bangkok? Will anyone in Thailand attempt to distribute the article (or a translation) more widely?