The Thaksinization of Thailand -- Impressions After 3 Months
Ambassador Ralph "Skip"
Boyce, gives the lowdown on the strengths and tragic flaws of Thaksin
"Dominating the scene
as no previous civilian leader has ever done, Thaksin's influence is
everywhere. The Bangkok elite, which embraced him as the next new thing four
years ago, has grown scornful of him, but he actually revels in thumbing his
nose at the capital's chattering classes. Himself a self-made man from the
provinces (according to his myth makers), he has successfully tapped into the
aspirations of Thailand's millions. And unlike previous regimes that rode into
power by buying the loyalties of the rural areas, Thaksin has also won over the
millions of Bangkok residents who are not from the traditional elite - the mom
and pop shopkeepers, the taxi drivers, the food stall vendors, department store
salespeople and the day laborers."
Manichaean Struggle for the Soul of Thailand
Brilliant analysis by Boyce
on Thaksin vs. the royalists.
"At issue is not just
who will be the next prime minister. Rather, this is a confrontation between
different models for Thai society, playing out in the struggle between the
beloved King, and all he represents, and the popular prime minister, and what
he portends. Right now, the momentum is running against Thaksin, who may have
to pay a high price for his hubris. But in the longer run, the King is old and
the Thailand he represents is changing. Thaksin faces serious challenges right
now, but he, or someone like him, is likely to be back."
King Bhumibol Warns of Ruin in the Absence of Unity, but Is Anyone Listening?
Poignant cable by then-Ambassador
Eric G. John on the king's waning influence.
"We believe the King's
purported influence actually far exceeds his actual ability to control events.…
Now in the deep twilight of his long reign, the King remains deeply venerated
by the vast majority of his subjects, and symbolically he remains the central
pillar of Thai identity. Despite this adulation and symbolic importance,
however, the evidence suggests his ability to influence current events in his
Kingdom, on the rare occasions he attempts to do so, is on the wane."
Circles of Influence Inside the Institution of the Monarchy in King Bhumibol's Twilight
A remarkable cable by John
on intrigue and infighting inside the palace.
"There are in fact
multiple circles of players and influence surrounding the Thai royal family,
often times with little overlap but with competing agendas, fueled by years of
physical separation and vacillating relationships between principals. Separate
centers of influence/players focus around: King Bhumibol; Queen Sirikit; Crown
Prince Vajiralongkorn; Princess Sirindhorn; and the Privy Council, though the
latter has less access/influence than many suppose. In addition, there are
supporting bureaucratic entities such as the Office of Principal Private
Secretary, the Royal Household Bureau, the Crown Property Bureau, and the Privy
Purse, which employ thousands and manage assets in the billions, as well as a
bevy of minor royals whose motorcades routinely clog Bangkok's roads."
China's Sustained, Successful Efforts to Court Southeast Asia and Thailand -- Perspectives and Implications
John surveys the
"Indications that the U.S.'s historically close relationship
with Thailand and the region is being challenged by the rise of China have
become increasingly evident in recent years in a variety of arenas, not just
economically but diplomatically, culturally, politically, and even in some
security areas. A U.S.-educated Thai Army Colonel at the National Defense
College shocked a group of U.S. one-star officers visiting as part of the
CAPSTONE program in the fall of 2008 by stating bluntly: 'The Thai perceive
regional power dynamics as follows: China is rising; the U.S. is
distracted/declining; and Thailand will adjust its policies accordingly.'"
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