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Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age

 

Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai, an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA, published an article via Manager online on 6 November 2020, explaining how H.M. King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.

Critics have unjustly compared His Majesty the King to his father, His Majesty the late King Bhumibhol Adulyadej the Great. Instead of making unfair judgments, critics should instead view that the many achievements throughout the lifetime of the late King Bhumibhol are an advantage to the institution, in the sense that the current King has the full intention of not only preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn has already sought to reform the monarchy firstly through adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices. Back in the days of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, proper distance and reserved manners were the accepted and practiced norm, [and only official photographers were allowed to take pictures of the king and present them to the public due to security concerns. The current King however, wishes to let the people understand his intentions to be close and bond with his people]. This is only one among the more obvious adaptations that has already taken place.  

The reform of the Crown Property Bureau which has been widely criticized by the protesters as the seizure of public wealth has in fact been undertaken with the intent to demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.

The Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage which was reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities. The club which once served as a horse-racing track used to be a gathering place for dubious but influential people. The King wishes to remedy this situation by allowing public use of the space for constructive purposes.

Military units that are deemed unnecessary for Bangkok metropolitan have been recalled and transferred to posts in other provinces. The land that used to house the said former military units have been repurposed specifically and entirely for public use.

Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.  The idea behind this reform is simply to put focus back on education with Rajabhat at the core, as the Rajabhat universities have two roles—to develop educators and knowledge for the community.  Such reform is necessary since Rajabhat has deviated from its course in the past decades and opened up too many new departments and courses in which it has had no expertise.  Rajabhat University system has 38 universities across the country and is more accessible and practical for local communities compared to more competitive schools such as Thammasat and Chulalongkorn. This initiative, with added budget, aims to strengthen the Rajabhat University system to be main driver for the development of local people and areas.

His Majesty’s reforms particularly serve to improve the well-being of the people, to encourage conservation of the country’s natural resources, as well as to prevent them from deforestation and exploitation. The initiatives are not to duplicate, but rather, to complement and fill in the gaps where government efforts have limitations, so that development assistance is inclusive and truly reaches those in need.

It may seem that His Majesty enjoys “royal power”, but in reality, because of his royal status, and the obligations that come with bearing the burden of the royal institution, the King is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.

His Majesty’s recent brief interview with CNN with the words, “we love them all the same,” and “Thailand is the land of compromise,” reflect that the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself, and that the institution will always remain close to the people.

By stating that, “Thailand is the land of compromise,” the King was hinting that the monarchy and the people must be tuned in to each other, just as people from different generations have to align their thoughts.  This is a matter of difference in opinion, it does not mean division.  Compromising, in this sense, refers to a civilised society seeks common ground while reserving the differences.

The monarchy institutions all over the world have to constantly adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of time.  The Thai monarchy, which reflects the value of independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.  One must understand the status and noble responsibilities borne by the sovereign, in terms of preserving traditions and accommodating to the demands of the world.

Dr. Chartchai reiterated that Thais should understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.

 

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Translated from https://mgronline.com/specialscoop/detail/9630000114894?fbclid=IwAR3jxl1snVM8oTUM9axk336-_d_XKedvh94JNXM0hEME-okbhWNcJULX07I

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