Palace, Political Party and Power: A Story of the Socio-Political Development of Malay Kingship

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By Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian

Palace, Political Party and Power: A Story of the Socio-Political Development of Malay Kingship traces the history of Malay rulers in the Malay Peninsula from the late colonial period to the first decade of the 21st century. The rulers went through a period of decline under colonial rule and during the Japanese Occupation, but the Occupation brought a heightened sense of Malay identity, and rulers were central to efforts to redefine Malayness after the war. However, when Malaysia achieved independence in 1957, they were compelled to embrace Westminster-style constitutional monarchy and their role became largely symbolic. Parliament and the executive branch handled the affairs of the nation, and UMNO - the United Malays National Organization - positioned itself as the "official" voice of the Malays.

The postwar settlement underwent a significant change after the shocking outcome of the March 2008 General Election weakened UMNO's hold on power. The Malay Rulers responded by "reinventing" themselves as active players in the affairs of the nation and have recovered some of their traditional status. Socio-political developments since the departure of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad have worked in favor of a continued royal resurgence, and the rulers have become an increasingly vocal element in national politics.


"The book is here recommended as good reading, especially for politicians, scholars and students in the higher education institutions." - Nazirah Lee

"She demonstrates real courage in writing about Malay monarchy and UMNO in a true academic fashion; she proves herself objective in the context of a public university in Malaysia." - Greg Lopez

"A welcome addition...Suwannathat-Pian has succeeded in producing a readable and wide-ranging account of Malay monarchy from the origins of colonial control, through the period of British rule, to the era of independence." - Simon C Smith 


Kobkua SUWANNATHAT-PIAN is Professor of History and Senior Fellow at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), Tanjung Malim, Perak, Malaysia. She is an acknowledged authority on Thai-Malaysian relations and contemporary Thai socio-politics. Throughout her academic life that spans over 30 years, Kobkua has served as lecturer, visiting fellow and professor to some of the leading institutes of higher learning in the region, including Chiangmai University, Chulalongkorn University; Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Tenaga Malaysia and UPSI; Universiti Gadjah Mada; and the University of Hong Kong. Her research focuses on socio-political issues in Thailand and Malaysia.


Publication Year: 2011
472 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-507-1, Paperback

NUS Press