COMMENT: Hi Marty,
As with so many others, I am very appreciative of your writing and am seeing your predictions come true as chaos piles up. Most recently, here in Thailand! The sister of the king, Princess Ubolrat (sp?) announced she would contest the upcoming election as prime minister. This is not only unprecedented in Thailand but perhaps anywhere in the world. In Thailand, the monarchy is treated with reverence and there are very strict laws about criticizing the monarchy, using their names or images for commercial or political purposes. And up until now, the monarchy has been strictly non-political. But there is a new regime now…indeed the king’s coronation is due to take place less than two months after the election on March 24 (coronation May 4).
The sister claims she is no longer a royal as she was stripped of her titles by her father, the former king (who died two years ago) when she married an American, but after 20+ years she divorced her husband and came back from America where she had been living to Thailand where she resumed royal duties. Thai people are so respectful/afraid of the monarchy that the election result is now considered to be a done deal as no one will dare to contest in any meaningful way. The small party she will lead is backed by the former billionaire prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who has been living in exile for many years after being dumped from power in a coup. He is the darling of the impoverished rural masses while the incumbent Prime Minister General Prayut, who deposed Thaksin’s sister Yinglak as prime minister in a second coup, has the support of the business elite. Thailand up to now has been a very traditional society resting on three solid foundations…the nation, religion, and monarchy. This, despite frequent coups and regular rewriting of constitutions, has given it stability. I wonder if one of these legs is about to be kicked away…with a member of the monarchy descending down to the political fray. Now we await the battle between the general and the princess….most bets, of course, are on the princess!
The king has now criticized the actions of his sister “inappropriate”. Since the king must approve the prime minister, it seems that her name can’t go forward. So the traditions still hold after all in Thailand.
REPLY: I love Thailand. It is one of the real gems in the world. Despite all the political turmoil, the structure keeps going. To a large extent, this demonstrates that the economy is self-sustaining and really does not require government in any country. People will interact with or without the presence of governments. Nevertheless, the beginning of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I took place in 1782 in Thailand, which rules to this day. The country was then known as Siam and the new capital of Bangkok was found. It was during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV) (1804-1868), who embraced Western innovations and initiated Thailand’s modernization.
When we look at the broader picture, the 224-year cycle of political change came into play in Thailand as well and was due in 2006. Indeed, it was during April-May 2006, when a snap election was called by the PM amid mass rallies against him that were boycotted by the opposition and subsequently annulled. This resulted in a political vacuum. The PM took a seven-week break from politics. Then in August 2006, the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra accused several army officers of plotting to kill him after police found a car containing bomb-making materials near his house. Then on September 19, 2006, military leaders staged a bloodless coup while Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was at the UN General Assembly. Retired General Surayud Chulanont was appointed as interim prime minister during October 2006. Finally, in January 2007 martial law was lifted in more than half of the country. Therefore, 2006 was a major turning point in Thailand.
Ever since 2006, we have witnessed rising political change. Opposition protesters occupied Bangkok’s main government complex in 2008, and began a mass anti-government protest calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Eventually, Sundaravej was forced out of office by December that year. In March-May 2010, tens of thousands of Thaksin supporters emerged in their trademark red shirts. The major political change seems to be on schedule for 2032 into 2048.