At the start of December there was a New Mandala post about the international media’s efforts to break the taboo around public discussion of royal intrigues. Since we identified this relatively abrupt new direction in media analysis and commentary there have been a number of other efforts to examine the role of the palace. Some examples (by no means comprehensive) follow:
If you happened to have been in Thailand this week and wanted to read the December 6-10 issue of The Economist, you could have searched the country without finding a copy. That’s because it contained an article and editorial that were critical of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Rather than risk insulting the king and offending his subjects, Asia Books, which imports the British weekly, chose not to distribute that particular edition. (“Thailand’s King May Play Politics (No Offense)”, Newsweek, 17 December 2008).
The monarchy’s guardians would be much better advised looking at the massive self-damage just inflicted in its name, and working out ways the heir apparent, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, can steer the institution into a more stable balance with electoral democracy. (Hamish McDonald, “Monarchy damaged by elites”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 December 2008).
King Bhumibol Adulyadej kept conspicuous silence, a hint of where his feelings lay. Abhisit supporters have been going about spreading innuendoes about the allegedly anti-royalist sentiments of Thaksin supporters. It all fell into a pattern. (“Thailand’s continuing crisis”, The Daily Star (Bangladesh), 17 December 2008).
And there are many other interesting fragments. In response to The Economist‘s broadside, there have been public statements from inside the Thai establishment:
While respecting your every right to express your view, I believe any analysis of the Thai monarchy should not be approached only from a western perspective, but it must take into account the Thai political, constitutional and cultural contexts. Likewise, a Thai should not criticise a monarch of another country based on his or her experiences with, and perspectives on, the Thai monarchy. We all have customs, traditions and conventions particular to our nations to consider. (Surakiart Sathirathai, “An open letter in reply to the Economist”, Bangkok Post, 15 December 2008).
Of late, speculation about the king’s role in Thailand’s political situation has grown. This appears to be because some political groups have cynically sought to capitalize on the king’s popularity by associating themselves with the monarchy. The king, however, is so strictly bound by laws and traditions that he is all but powerless to defend himself. This is the reason the Thai people called for a lèse majesté law to protect their king in the first place. (Tharit Charungvat, “The Thai monarchy”, The International Herald Tribune, 18 December 2008).
And then there is this selection of Letters to the Editor of The Nation.