Australian academic Patrick Jory has one of the best pieces we’ve seen on “delayed succession.” Sure, it is all still speculation, yet Jory bases his “best guesses” on “what we know.” His piece appears at The Interpreter. Some tidbits:
Some observers of Thailand’s politics are attracted to the theory that the Crown Prince may have been ‘blocked’ from assuming the throne by his enemies in the Thai royalist establishment. Such a view is particularly influential among some sections of the Red Shirts movement, who believe that succession instability may provide an opportunity for an uprising against the royalist establishment….
We don’t think the latter view is widespread. However, many yellow shirts believe the view is widespread – and so are frightened – and dislike the prince for this and other failures.
Jory thinks the successionist “speculation is almost certainly wrong…”. He lists several reasons for arguing that the prince will become king.
First, the long official mourning period – at least one year – means that any overt political activity at this time would be portrayed by the military regime as disrespectful to the late king….
Second, … the military coup of 2014 was carried out precisely to ensure that the military was in control when the succession took place. The military has been successful in suppressing all political activity during this time. There is no reason why this should not continue.
Third, the military and the monarchy have been in a close and mutually beneficial political alliance since the late 1950s. The military provides ultimate protection for the monarchy; the monarchy has long provided legitimacy for the military’s political role, which has included sanctioning coups and approving amnesty bills which absolve the military from all legal responsibility for their actions. For this reason, it is in the interests of both to ensure that the succession is as smooth as possible. The last thing either institution wants is disunity.
Fourth, and most importantly, it is clear that the Crown Prince is already in a powerful position….
This sounds reasonable. So why wait to become king?
As exiled political historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul has argued, it is likely that the Crown Prince’s decision to delay the succession is purely idiosyncratic, typical of his well-known lack of respect for convention and tradition. Given the prince’s reputation, few would dare question his decision.
Maybe. At the same time, the prince doesn’t look grasping and covetous of the kingship. He also gains some of his father’s aura from attending to the funeral, which has displayed the royal family as united rather than split (although we wonder why the family pictures at a Bangkok Post story have apparently been removed when we last looked). It has introduced the country to the idea of Suthida as consort.
That helps him work on a problem Jory identifies for the new king: “how to win the hearts and minds of the Thai population.”
Jory spends a bit of time on the alleged relationship between Thaksin Shinawatra and the prince.
We tend to think that that the relationship – whatever it was – is weakened by the military’s now dominant position, including its dominance of the monarchy:
The new constitution drafted by a military-appointed lawyer and approved at a tightly-controlled plebiscite in August makes for a weak parliament, an enhanced political role for the military, and the possibility of a non-elected prime minister. This is also to the benefit of the new king.
All this suggests that the authority of the Crown Prince has been underestimated. In particular, his ruthless use of the lèse majesté law as his political weapon of choice, not only to destroy his enemies but to forbid any criticism of his actions, is an indication of what we might expect when the reign of King Rama X finally officially begins.