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THAILAND’S MOMENT OF TRUTH (Part 1)

THAILAND’S MOMENT OF TRUTH (Part 1)

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Published by kiletters
Thailand, Thai history
Thailand, Thai history

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Published by: kiletters on Jun 29, 2011
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05/12/2014

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THAILAND’S MOMENT OF TRUTH
A SECRET HISTORY OF 21
ST
CENTURY SIAM
#THAISTORY|PART ONE OF FOUR | VERSION 1.2 | 230611
 
Andrew MacGregor Marshall
 [Mail|Twitter |Blog]  - - - - - “The battle lines in Thailand's political environment are clearly drawn... The Thaksin machine faces off against a mix of royalists, Bangkok middle class, and southerners, with Queen Sirikit having emergedas their champion, as King Bhumibol largely fades from an active role. The two sides are competing for influence and appear to believe, or fear, that the other will use the political power it has to marginalize(if not eliminate) the opposing side. They are positioning themselves for what key actors on both sidesfreely admit to us in private will be Thailand's moment of truth - royal succession after the King passesaway.” - U.S. cable08BANGKOK3289, November 4,2008.  
ช้างตายทั  ้งตัวเอาใบบัวปิดไม่มิ
 
-
Thai proverb “Nothing will come of nothing; speak again.”- Lear to Cordelia in William Shakespeare,
 King Lear 
, Act I Scene I - - - - - 
This work is licensed under aCreativeCommons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
 
 
 
CONTENTS
 
NOTES
 There are several ways to transliterate Thai into English, and there is little agreement even on basicground rules. The U.S. cables often use eccentric spelling for Thai names, and often use several differentspellings, sometimes even within a single cable. Quotes from the cables and other sources are reproducedverbatim, even if this means conflicting spellings in the text of the article. I have followed three rules in my redaction policy for this story: 1. If the source of information is a player in the game, their identity is not redacted. 2. The exception to this is if identifying the source couldsubject them to significant risk of physical harm. 3. If the source is not a player in the game, their identity,and other information that could help identify them, has been redacted. Xs in the text signify redaction. Itshould be noted that the number of Xs used has been deliberately randomized. Counting the number of Xswill not provide any secret insight into the source. My name is Andrew MacGregor Marshall. I am not based in Thailand. There is an excellent Bangkok- based freelance journalist called Andrew Marshall, who writes for Time magazine among other  publications and authored a book on Burma,
The Trouser People
. He has nothing to do with this articleand obviously should not be held responsible for anything I write. This story is dedicated to the people of Thailand and to the memory of my colleague Hiroyuki Muramoto,killed in Bangkok on April 10, 2010. 
 
PROLOGUE: “THE DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY PICNIC”
 
Late in the evening of Tuesday October 6, 2009, the world'slongestreigninglivingmonarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty of Siam, was restless and alone, unsteadily pacing the corridors of Siriraj Hospital on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river that loops and weavesthrough the unruly urban sprawl of Bangkok. Bhumibol, areveredruler  whosetowering influence during six decades on the throne profoundly shaped the character and destiny of modern Thailand, had been admitted to Siriraj on September 19, a few months before his 82nd birthday, with a mild fever anddifficulty swallowing. His recovery was complicated by his Parkinson's disease and a possible bout of  pneumonia, and there were worrying whispers among well-connected Thais that the king was also sunk in deep depression. Even so, by the first week of October his doctors pronounced him well enough to be discharged to the nearby Chitralada Palace, where he had lived for most of his reign. But Bhumiboldeclined to go home. He remained at Siriraj, in a 16th floor room in a special section reserved for royaluse in one of the hospital's towers. On October 4, a full moon hung in the sky over Siriraj, heralding thestart of the holy
kathin
month in the ancient Theravada Buddhist tradition, an auspicious time for meritmaking at the end of the rainy season and the beginning the rice harvest. Two nights later, Bhumibol rosefrom his bed and went for a solitary walk along the quiet hospital corridors.Pausing at a window and gazing out into the Bangkok night with his one good eye, the king lookedacross the river, past the soaring silhouette of Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, to the opposite bank and the golden spires of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace that for more thantwo centuries, since the founding of the Chakri dynasty, have represented the heart of spiritual and royal power in Thailand. They were shrouded in darkness, lost and invisible in the gloom.Bhumibolsent ordesthat the lightsof  the Grand Palace were not to be turned off during the night. He wanted to always be able see it from hishospital on the far side of the Chao Phraya. In Bangkok's frantic jumble of slums and shophouses, luxury high-rise condominiums and decrepitapartment buildings, stretching away to the horizon from Bhumibol's hospital windows, and in theconstellations of provincial towns and rural villages beyond, many millions of Thais were anxious andfearful of the future. Millions were angry, too. Thailand was troubled and divided, and Bhumibol's illnessseemed to be a reflection of the disorder that afflicted his kingdom, and a disquieting omen of turmoilto come. A decade earlier, brash Chinese-Thai telecoms billionaireThaksinShinawatrahad launched an unprecedented effort to transform Thai politics with his authoritarian "CEO-style management" of the country. Thaksin had been more spectacularly successful than anyone had expected - so successfulthat the elderly courtiers and bureaucrats surrounding the king had come to view him as a dangerousrival to Bhumibol and an existential threat to the very survival of the Chakri dynasty. And so Thailand'sestablishment had turned on Thaksin. The escalating struggle threatened to tear the country apart,exposing deep ideological, social, regional and economic faultlines that belied the official myth of aharmonious and contented "Land of Smiles". A proud nation that just a few years before had symbolizedthe emergence of Southeast Asia as a dynamic developing and democratizing region was suddenly flung backwards into conflict, self-doubt and confusion.

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