Coup, King, Crisis: A Critical Interregnum in Thailand

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Forthcoming! Publishing Feb 2020 in Asia

edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun

The 70-year long reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej ended in October 2016. Over the decades, the monarchy became the country’s most important political institution. The inevitability of the end of the Bhumibol era loomed large over 21st century Thailand and brought heightened anxiety to a political elite whose interests have long aligned with the monarchy. Events have now taken their course, and King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been crowned. The new King is beginning to make his presence felt, but in important ways Thailand is still in an interregnum: a time when the old order is dying but a new one struggles to be born.

The military staged a coup in 2014, primarily to take control over the royal transition. Vajiralongkorn's popularity was a worry, needing the military to back up his enthronement. Vajiralongkorn, the military and the institutions of Bhumibol's monarchy began to construct a working relationship against challenges from the faction of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was overthrown in a coup in 2006, but his popularity has never faded. He has remained a perceived threat to the power position of the monarchy and the military, and put in place long-term changes in the expectations of Thailand's rural poor.

This volume examines the royal transition in Thailand, from the 2014 coup through the 2019 election. The royal transition sparked a crisis that jeopardised the Thai nation and its institutions, from the politicised judiciary to the troubled Sanga or priesthood. The period of waiting has influenced all aspects of Thai governance, from foreign policy to economic management, with a new constitution put in place in 2017, to the troubled human rights situation and spread of self-censorship. This volume, which brings together some of the leading writers on Thailand, is the first book-length analysis of this deep transition.

"Pavin has curated an indispensable and provocative volume for understanding what he calls Thailand’s 'dangerous interregnum'...The volume’s tight and well-written chapters do a fine job of contextualizing Thailand’s prolonged crisis for the reading public. This is a rare volume – speaking to the present but grounded in the past and helping write the future."
– Michael K. ConnorsXi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University 

Coup, King, Crisis is a multifaceted and deeply nuanced probe into the doldrums in which Thailand today seems becalmed...For those who want to understand the relations among Thailand’s complex past, cultural values, and political tensions, this book is essential reading.”
– Michael HerzfeldHarvard University

Pavin Chachavalpongpun
is associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.

Publication year: 2020
1392 pp / 229 x 152 mm / 2 maps