Thai Government Prepares for Monarch Succession: The First in 70 Years

April 25, 2016Thailandby EW News Desk Team

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The government has plastered images of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn throughout the public sphere, as the prince stands ready to succeed the throne when his father passes, according Channel NewsAsia.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej is a revered figure, but some leaders fear his death could cause further uncertainty as Thailand undergoes political and economic instability. The king has ruled since 1946 and remains in a hospital recovering from hydrocephalus, among other illnesses.

Many Thais see the king as a beloved father figure, and his passing will inevitably scar the nation. The issue of his son is an entirely different matter, however, as he is held in low regard overall, but few would be willing to declare discontent in public. The crown prince is viewed by many as an arrogant womanizer who is known for his ostentatious display of wealth and bizarre personal behavior.

Critics feel that the king should name the more popular Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as heir to the throne. The monarchy is an essential institution, but the king’s power is limited, and Thailand’s constitutional monarchy is under military control.

Power Grab

The government’s primary goals include maintaining stability and reinvigorating the economy. Thailand has been under military governance since 2014, establishing the National Council for Peace and Order as the primary ruling body.

The armed forces took power in response to tensions regarding former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s abuse of power, during which she allowed her brother, the once-prime minister, back into the country from exile after he was deposed in 2006. The opposition seized the moment and moved against the prime minister, resulting in political turmoil and protests.

She was eventually removed from office by a constitutional court. The military coup alienated Thailand from the world community, especially the United States, a key ally in the region.

Economic Recovery

The political instability has also bled over into the economy. Thailand suffered through low exports and stagnant growth, but the government commenced stimulus spending to keep the country afloat, notes Asian Development Bank. Furthermore, Thailand is expected to make a solid recovery in the next few years due to public investment.

The King’s Role

Thailand can ill afford further political disruption, but it remains to be seen how effective the crown prince will be given his unpopular status. Thai throne is a figurehead post, but it holds vast sway over matters of state while fostering stability when needed. With that, the king never spoke out against the military coup, allowing the country to fall prey to a government that suppresses freedom of expression and jails dissidents.

Thailand has a turbulent political history, and the government could succumb to another violent period when considering the dangerous mix of power dynamics within the monarchy and the military’s dangerous authoritarianism.

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