- Politics and International Relations
- Domestic politics and international relations of Thailand as well as politics of mainland Southeast Asia and interstate relations
The Thai Monarchy under King Vajiralongkorn
In the first project, I will be looking at the role of King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand in politics. In the twilight years of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946–2016), changes to monarchic power were already set in motion. Having been at the center of political gravity, Bhumibol left a vacuum of power when he died. Vajiralongkorn, enthroned in 2016, filled the vacuum with his desire to further augment the monarchic power despite his lack of moral authority and charisma. This project focuses on Vajiralongkorn’s attempt to strengthen his position of power by employing a different method from the one used by his father, Bhumibol. The pro-monarchy institutions have readjusted their relationship with Vajiralongkorn, primarily for their own interests, hence perpetuating the changing nature of monarchic power. But at the other end of the spectrum, the young generation has reacted daringly to the growing power of Vajiralongkorn by demanding royal reforms, and in the process trespassing against the overly protected realm of the monarchy even in the face of the lèse-majesté law. The Thai monarchy has arrived at a crossroads, and yet has chosen to resist popular will and disregard calls for reforms. The future of the monarchy remains dangerously uncertain.
The Relationship between the United States and the Thai Monarchy
The Relationship between Thailand and the United States: Thailand is the United States’ oldest ally in Asia. The two countries signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1836 which served as a foundation for strong bilateral ties. It is evident that the United States’ amicable relations with Siamese kings assisted greatly in strengthening the power of the throne. Bilateral relations were progressively solidified particularly during the Cold War when the two nations cooperated in their attempt to combat the threat of communism, even when Washington openly supported a series of despotic regimes in Thailand against democratic forces. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand's most powerful and revered monarch, was reinvented into an all-time US protagonist. As Bhumibol strove to maintain his royal political hegemony, the US was ready to lend its support to Bhumibol’s “network monarchy” of which Washington became a kind of member ex officio. Washington invested massively in Bhumibol throughout the Cold War. But when the Cold War was over and the Thai political landscape changed drastically, the United States was rooted to the old network of the ailing king. This study examines the ties between the United States and the authoritative institution of Thailand – the monarchy. The speaker discusses how the United States has willingly become a part of Thailand’s domestic political struggles which pitted the dominant monarchy against democratic institutions. Perceiving the monarchy as the highest institution, Washington put all of its eggs in that one basket as a way to defend its interests of power in the kingdom. Hence, when new political alternatives emerged on the Thai political scene, the United States remained reluctant to engage with them for fear that it could joepardise its intimate relations with the monarchy. Additionally, with the rise of China, a question must be asked: What must the United States do to maintain its influence over this old ally in Southeast Asia?