Sunday 6 April 2014

Debunking the Flawed Thai Succession Crisis Thesis: Part 1

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

Today the BBC's Bangkok correspondent, Jonathan Head, raised the issue of the Succession that will follow the death of Thailand's elderly king as being the determining factor in the present political crisis that is gripping the country. 

I've long thought the idea that the "Succession" issue is determinative of the present Thai political crisis as being based on the kind of lazy analysis which seeks to avoid the tougher questions required by a more complete historical and political investigation.

The main agent in pushing this theory is quite well-known for attacking anyone who dares challenge him on the Succession theory - something he has sought to claim ownership of - and given that most challenges come from the fascistic end of the political spectrum that might be an appropriate response.

However, it is my view that by purely focusing on Succession to such an over-determinative level the debate on the Thai political crisis is being skewed away from a more in-depth analysis and, in fact, actually plays into the hands of the very fascistic/ultra-royalist forces that Succession Crisis-platform claims to oppose.

For a start claiming that the "Succession" is THE determining factor in the present Thai crisis doesn't explain 80years of attacks on Thai democracy, 18 coups, several massacres and many constitutions. Where was the present Succession crisis when Pridi was ran out of Bangkok, when Sarit took power, when the guns were turned on the pro-democracy activists in 1973 and 1976? 

Furthermore does anyone seriously believe once the Succession issue has been resolved - and I mean in either direction - the Army and the billionaires backing the PDRC are just going to allow democracy to flourish unchallenged? Does anyone seriously believe that the USA are going to stop using Thailand as the SE Asian pivot from which to play their  vicious strategic power games? Will the CIA torturers, the arms dealers, the criminals, the gold hoarders just decamp? Will the Thai generals, the Democrat Party fascists and the monarchy network all suddenly embrace democracy and allow accountable civilian rule to take root?

Of course not. And it would only be the most delusional naif who would think that is the case. 

Thailand's present crisis is rooted in a long-term political and historical struggle and can only be analysed via that prism not via the social media marketing strategies of those who want to sell their latest book however well-intentioned they might be.

Arguing that "Succession" is the ultimate crisis in Thailand would be like a bunch of chickens debating the importance of which kind of predator is coming to devour them. Ultimately, the "Succession" crisis is meaningless when the wider context of power is considered. In effect, the real crisis is not a "Succession Crisis" but a "Democracy Crisis".

I certainly don't claim to have all the answers and do believe the Succession is a genuine crisis for certain groups in Thailand but, in my view, believe that pushing the debate into this one determining direction will ultimately deny the opportunity for a wider analysis to take place and for the answers to Thailand's crisis to be found.


  1. I'm going to make a simple comment, forgive me if it's abrupt.

    I agree with everything you say but the problem now is about the success of Thailand for our children, not just one person. Usurping democracy again will cause havoc, if it needs to happen so be it.

    1. That's an excellent comment and certainly not abrupt.

      I think Marshall's strand of thinking detracts from a political analysis.

      For me it is quite clear - a form of fascism particular to Thailand has held sway and dominated Thai politics for far too long. Succession has a role in this bizarre theatre but is just a walk-on part.

      And you're right - the real issue is the ordinary people of Thailand and how the "rights" Thai parents will be passed onto their kids. That's the real "succession" that needs to be discussed not a hodgepodge thesis delivered by someone who seems to consider themselves more a celebrity than anything else.

  2. Encapsulating the problem as "success for Thailand" on the behalf of so and so isn't accurate either. The succession issue is really not so difficult to handle as we are not the ones that are going to deal with it. People in place who will do so are more likely than not playing the waiting game until the inevitable must be dealt with. At that time an evaluation will be made, conversations held, propriety concerns addressed and the old national security umbrella opened again and then people will make a decision. As of the time being, it's inevitable who is going to be the man. What is not so inevitable is the situational complexities in place at that time which will affect the what somewhat but more so the how and when.

  3. An excellent piece of writing Andrew. I completely agree. It is too simplistic to blame the whole instability of genuine politics in Thailand on one issue.

    Marshall may have gotten to the wrong conclusion by steadfastly or doggedly sifting through the detritus to get at 'the truth' over the death of the King's brother. This may have clouded his judgement.


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