Thailand: More Palace Intrigue
Very dishy analysis of King Bhumibol's behavior during the coup, and recently, from the Canadian journalist who was his advisor and wrote his biography, William Stevenson:
(via the Toronto Star:)
I was his confidant for six years during the 1990s when his chief concern was already outbreaks of violence. His anxieties grew with a deepening knowledge of quarrelling factions around the Crown Prince, his only son, who became so deeply influenced by “bad elements” that Bhumibol at one stage named his eldest daughter, Princess Sirindhorn, as his successor. This drove the Crown Prince to fashion his own military and security faction, now a factor in the present unrest.
I wonder, has the King backed off on his designation of the Princess because of the Crown Prince's threat?
As Bhumibol became more frail, his enemies within the armed forces, subverted by the Crown Prince, grew bolder. His old allies among politicians who valued his advice are gone. He once said he spoke openly with me because he needed a safety valve. He was never sure if what he confided to palace courtiers would turn into gossip and distortion. The king I came to know wanted to turn into reality the dreams he shared with his brother when they were young students in Europe. As boys, they planned to make the kingdom self-sufficient, and to liberate the peasantry from poverty.
Just an aside: King Bhumibol was born in Boston, MA, where his father was working as a doctor. He received a Western education.
One of the reasons I think that PM Abhisit is still standing is that the King sees the Oxford-educated, foreign born "Mark" as his instrument. And for Abhisit, vice versa--his flares of arrogance come because he truly believes he's not in it for his own ambition, but is working for the King.
Lambert will like this story:
During one earlier uprising, when Bangkok rioters surrounded Chitralada Villa, the monarch's residence, his mother went into the streets and talked with armed protestors. She was joined by Bhumibol who invited them into the palace grounds and offered them transport home. “Nobody thought of that until my mother came along,” Bhumibol told me.
His mother commanded such enormous respect among Thais that, if she were still alive, I believe her only surviving son, despite his illness, would yet find the strength to act as mediator.
Stevenson ends on an ominous, sinister note:
The harshest penalties are inflicted on anyone who comments on the dynasty's future if the Crown Prince succeeds Bhumibol.
Behind the Successor Apparent stand the bribed supporters of the discredited ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire titan, previously convicted on charges of bribery, expelled from exile in the United Kingdom, and now running the so-called “Red Militia” from nearby Cambodia, with advice from Muslim connections he made during meetings in Dubai with Panlop Pinmanee, one of the most radical of the Red Shirt Generals.
This isn't the first time I've read allegations of collusion between Thaksin and the CP. But it's the first time I've seen the Muslim angle stirred into the pot.
Along with the Red Shirts as well! It's a delicious John LeCarre page turner. Even if none of it's true, you have to appreciate the grandness and sweep of the plot.
Hmm. Instead of this blogging business, I should probably be writing a remake of The Year of Living Dangerously, set in Thailand.
Or, even better, an adaptation of Macbeth.