“Unexpected” military domination

The Washington Times: has a story that begins:

Hopes that the death of the longtime king might create room for political liberalization are quickly fading as the military-dominated government moves swiftly and skillfully to consolidate its grip on power.

Who thought that the king’s death would result in any kind of liberalization? We are lost on this one. Some predicted succession chaos. But was there any serious commentary that the death of a monarch in an ultra-royalist country dominated by a military dictatorship would lead to liberalization?

The story is on much firmer ground when arguing that since the death of the king, things have actually become more authoritarian:

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the onetime army chief and staunch royalist who seized power in a bloodless 2014 coup, has taken firm charge of the elaborate funeral arrangements and extensive public security amid the nation’s grief-stricken confusion. Analysts say there are few signs of political vulnerability for Mr. Prayuth [they mean The Dictator], despite the loss of a monarch who was a key backer of the military over his 70-year reign.

The Times is also on firm ground on succession:

The military also appears to be firmly in charge of the timing and imagery of the transfer of the monarchy to Maha Vajiralongkorn, announcing last week that the 64-year-old crown prince will ascend to the throne early next month.

And this is surely true:

Shoring up his standing with conservatives and monarchists, Mr. Prayuth’s postcoup policies have largely focused on defending Thailand’s “old money” elite against social climbing “nouveau riche” rivals while expanding the government’s powers through a rewrite of the constitution.

… his supporters appear to be sticking with him in the aftermath of the king’s death. They expect him to maintain Thailand’s stability and investment worthiness during the monarchical transition. Mr. Prayuth has used the final years of the late king’s reign to consolidate his own political base.

There’s no doubt that the military junta has purged the military, police, bureaucracy, judiciary and legislature to ensure its political longevity and to change the rules of politics. This political blitzkrieg will take years to unpick.

We are baffled, though, why the succession is considered a highly uncertain time. The coup and the military junta took all uncertainty out of succession over the past years.


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