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King Vajiralongkorn was crowned on 1 December 2016, although the official ceremony was not until 4 May 2019 (note that the official coronation was a three-day celebration from 4-6 May 2019). During this interval, Vajiralongkorn made known of his political ambition. For example, he intervened in the constitutional drafting process, requesting provisions related to the monarchy be amended. He restructured the Privy Council, removing some old councillors and filled the positions with military men. He also reformed the Crown Property Bureau (CPB). Assets previously registered to the CPB, from June 2018, would be held ‘in the name of His Majesty’.
In other words, Vajiralongkorn took sole control of the CPB, erasing any ambiguity about the owner of this super-rich organisation. A scholar argues, ‘The monarchy now holds more formal power than any king since 1932. The King and the military have an accommodation built around the military’s capacity for repression’.
Under Bhumibol, political stability was key to the flourishing reign. Politics was predictable. Benefits were shared among major stakeholders. Underpinning Bhumibol’s strength was his unsurpassed ability to accumulate moral authority through the invigoration of the neo-royalist ideology. Under Vajiralongkorn, the palace has striven for a new management style.
This talk discusses the beginning of the new reign under King Vajiralongkorn. In particular, it seeks to discuss his relationship with other key institutions, including the democratic forces.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun is Associate Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, where he teaches Southeast Asian Comparative Politics. Earning his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Pavin has authored a number of books including Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy and the forthcoming edited volume Coup, King, Crisis: Time of a Critical Interregnum in Thailand. Pavin is also the chief editor of the online journal Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia in which all articles are translated from English into Japanese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Filipino and Vietnamese. After the Thai coup of 2014, Pavin was summoned twice for his critical views of the Thai monarchy. He rejected the summons. As a result, the junta issued a warrant for his arrest and revoked his passport, forcing him to apply for a refugee status with Japan.