This article summarizes the current political crisis and speaks openly about the crucial issue of the royal succession.
A major factor in the deep background of Thai politics has been the twilight that is overtaking the 62-year reign of widely revered King Bhumibol. […]
Both sides are well aware, as all Thais fear but dare not say in public, that Thailand’s future is up for grabs. What happens after the current king leaves the scene could be the most wrenching crisis yet. So successful has been his kingship that most Thais have come to take too much for granted what he has meant to the fabric of national life.
Above all, he has played the crucial role of final arbiter in a country whose politics are chronically fractious and volatile. King Bhumibol’s unsurpassed moral authority has long been Thailand’s sheet anchor, the mainstay of national stability and continuity. Once he is gone, the country will be in uncharted waters.
It is common knowledge that none of King Bhumibol’s eligible heirs can be reasonably expected to command as much popularity, reverence, and moral authority as he does.
Not only will the King leave behind a large gap by virtue of his remarkable personal achievements, but it may also be argued that institutionally the monarchy occupies an asymmetrically important position in a now-modern country where public expectations for representation and demands for a greater share of the pie are rife.
Matching up to such a predecessor and crafting a new role for the modern monarchy will be daunting challenges indeed.
Thailand has never been here before, and the Privy Council has not expressed any preference regarding the succession.
Nor has King Bhumibol indicated his own preference thus far, aside from a 1974 legal revision that enabled a female heir to ascend to the throne. Without clearer indications from the King, the palace, or the Privy Council, the royal succession will remain Thailand’s biggest and most daunting question mark.