A Kingdom in Crisis : Thailand's Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century Paperback
Part of the Asian Arguments series
Struggling to emerge from a despotic past, and convulsed by an intractable conflict that will determine its future, Thailand stands at a defining moment in its history.
Scores have been killed on the streets of Bangkok. Freedom of speech is routinely denied. Democracy appears increasingly distant. And many Thais fear that the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is expected to unleash even greater instability. Yet in spite of the impact of the crisis, and the extraordinary importance of the royal succession, they have never been comprehensively analysed - until now.
Breaking Thailand's draconian lese majeste law, Andrew MacGregor Marshall is one of the only journalists covering contemporary Thailand to tell the whole story.
He provides a comprehensive explanation that for the first time makes sense of the crisis, revealing the unacknowledged succession conflict that has become entangled with the struggle for democracy in Thailand.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 248 pages
- Publisher: Zed Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 09/10/2014
- Category: Politics & government
- ISBN: 9781783600571
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by acgallegos91
As an American who has never paid much attention to Asian politics, I found this book to be absolutely fascinating. This book is obviously written for a Western audience as Andrew MacGregor Marshall walks readers through the history of Thailand’s monarchy, its current quasi-constitutional monarchy and the ongoing battle to gain control of the country as the death of its do-nothing king looms near. While the book is well researched, MacGregor Marshall approaches Thai politics from the perspective of someone used of idea of Western democracy for all. He sides against the Thai elites in hoping that everyone will have the right/ability to vote, but he does little to capture the political voice of the rural poor and upcoming middle class except in describing what seems like endless coups and protests in the last ten years. The author does a great job in encapsulating the power struggle between the elites, the monarchy, and anyone who attempts to upset the status quo; and the repressiveness of its censorship laws. This book is a good catalyst of anyone looking for further insight into Thai politics.
Review by whitewavedarling
Marshall's work is an invaluable summing up and examination of the political upheaval present in Thailand, from last century on through immediate history. Describing the balance of power (or rather, the sometimes lack of balance) between the people and the monarchy, and between what is said versus what actually happens, along with the frightening lack of freedom of speech, Marshall moves through recent history with an eye toward analyzing the current political crisis which has been ongoing and is now heightening as the country prepares for what will come with the current king's death, something which may not be far off, given his ill-health. With instability in the country likely to rise and with royal succession under heavy discussion, all of the matters this book tackles have been discussed only rarely because of Thailand's lese majeste law and the utter disconnect between what is said to be happening and what is actually occurring. This author, and this work, has cut through that confusion to attempt an in-depth analysis.For any reader interested in current global politics, in free speech, or in struggles for democracy, this is worth reading, and of course, it will be of interest to readers who want more understanding of the political and cultural climate in Thailand. Marshall's work is smart and well-researched, and his style is both engaging and clear. He carefully documents the peoples' ignored struggles for democracy here, just as he explores the reason that it is still a struggle, and political crisis so clearly in view.All together, this is a stunning and engaging piece of journalism, and well worth the time for anyone interested.
Review by Meredy
Review by cammykitty
I'll start off by saying I don't have much background knowledge on Thailand, just what I know from speaking to Hmong- and Thai-Americans, from reading a biography or two and from researching the ghost Mae Nak. I knew that the Thai language had a special "case" to be used in royalty. One man I met was left with royalty as a child while his parents were out of the country. He found it easier to pretend he didn't speak Thai than to deal with the special version of the language to be spoken around royalty. That said, I'm not a fact checker but what Marshall describes in A Kingdom in Crisis sounds perfectly plausible. He describes a monarchy challenged by two things: the call of the people to democratize and the succession of the crown. He describes Thailand as an oligarchy run by old families, some of which just recently gave up the harems, that is fighting to keep all its power in a world where the "peasants" are educated and the internet circumvents the governments control of the media. If Orwell and been interested in monarchies instead of communist states, this is the kind of world he would have depicted in his fiction.
Review by Matthew1982
The information covered in this book is fascinating. I have never known much about Thailand. I only knew that it somehow evaded direct European colonization, unlike every country around it, and that it has had coups, revolutions and violence in the streets for the past decade. What the author discusses here explains a lot of it - the isolated king is a puppet for the ruling elite, who have been opposing the nouveau riche Thaksin Shinawatra as well as the pro-democracy masses. Also, Thailand's notorious lèse-majesté law is shown as a bludgeon used to enforce a sort of erratic "discipline" in the absence of real respect for the monarchy. I find that journalists make some of the best book writers, and this book is no exception - there's a flood of information in here, but it isn't overwhelming and isn't expressed in hardcore academic jargon. The reader gets an intro to Thai history, society, royalist mythology, crooked politics, and a variety of other subjects that come together and flow almost seamlessly. Lots of interesting stuff that's delivered well - hard to argue with that.I only have two minor quibbles - one is the typos, which popped up a lot in my (uncorrected proof) copy and hopefully have been fixed in the proper book. The second is that I do not completely buy some of the author's statements about the power of the masses in Thailand. It's likely that I'm very underinformed (he's studied the place for years, I haven't) but I'm a bit skeptical nonetheless.This book is very intriguing and a good explanation for why "riots and violence in Thailand" pops up on the news every once in a while. Easily on the short list for the most informative books I've received via the Early Reviewers group.