A few weeks ago I passed quiet word to New Mandala readers that mentions of the “k word” will not be tolerated in Thailand’s prospective 2011 election campaign.

The entire process of limiting political discussions of the monarchy has now been even more thoroughly formalised. Yesterday, representatives of Thai political parties were invited to sign a charter for the conduct of the election campaign. According to The Nation 42 parties backed the charter and stated their intention to, among other things, “refrain from involving the monarchy in election campaigning”.

There were, it is surely notable, 14 political parties that chose not to make this promise.

On the same day Thailand’s 83-year-old monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, underwent a “spinal tap” procedure to drain excess fluid which may be impacting his ability to walk. He has been hospitalised since September 2009. Understandably, his day-to-day role in any 2011 election campaign will be very limited.

But with everything that has happened since the coup of 19 September 2006 it would be naive of us to expect that he and the monarchy more generally won’t be “involved”. The king of Thailand may never campaign in national elections. This does not mean that his legitimacy and influence are not intimately tied to a range of deeply political processes.