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The Monarchy in Brief

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Monarchy 
 
The institution of the monarchy in Thailand is in many ways unique, often difficult for outsiders to fully comprehend. Not only does it have a history going back more than seven hundred years, but it has also managed to preserve its relevance and vitality in the contemporary world. Even though the monarchy in its absolute form ended in 1932, the institution today continues to command deep, universal respect and serves as a unifying element for the country. This was evident in the unprecedented outpouring of public pride and affection that greeted such occasions as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 60th anniversary of Accession to the Throne and his 80th  Birthday in 2006 and 2007, respectively, and is also apparent in countless other ways, big and small.
 
The love and reverence the Thai people have for their King stem in large part from the distinctive form the modern monarchy has taken under King Bhumibol’s reign, one that involves a remarkable degree of personal contact. At the same time, it is rooted in attitudes that can be traced to the earliest days of Thailand as a nation and in some of the past rulers who continue to serve as models of kingship.
 
General
 
The Thai monarchy has been a pillar of stability in Thailand. The Thai sense of identity is closely linked to the monarchy, an institution that dates back more than 700 years. The institution, to this day, continues to play a unifying role and symbolizes the unity of the Thai communities. In his 68 years on the throne, His Majesty King Bhumibol has worked tirelessly to serve the people of Thailand. He has traveled to every corner of the country to learn about their problems and help them find sustainable solutions. His 4,447 royal projects have served as experimental stations and models for development. His sufficiency economy philosophy -- with its emphasis on moderation, prudence, and social immunity – makes sustainability practical. His Majesty is thus a monarch who at once occupies an exalted status by virtue of history and tradition, yet is also closely in touch with his people and their needs. This combination of qualities has been rewarded with a deeply felt reverence among the Thai people.
 
Constitutional Monarchy
 
The fact is that the monarchy has been and always remains above politics.    It is the core spiritual pillar of Thai society, a unifying force binding all Thais together, no matter their political beliefs. As such, it cannot afford to take sides in any political conflict. His Majesty the King has repeatedly made clear his recognition of the limitations on his authority under the Constitution. Therefore, to argue that the King himself or the Thai royal family have been interfering with politics is clearly misleading and highly inappropriate. In a constitutional monarchy, His Majesty the King has a pro forma power and responsibilities as prescribed by the Constitution. Hence, in exercising this function, he is ever conscious of his non-political role. For instance, in royally appointing the country’s administrators, there requires a counter – signee for such proclamations. All in all, it should be highlighted that His Majesty has always exercised his prerogatives under three discretionary powers comprising “the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and    the right to warn” while adhering strictly to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
 
However, during the political conflict of recent years, various political players have attempted to exploit the monarchy for political gain. Some have used their purported devotion to the monarchy as a rallying cry and to justify legally questionable tactics against their opponents. Others, unfortunately, seem to believe that the claims are true. These attempts to politicize the monarchy must be resisted, especially if one side or another tries to drag the monarchy into the political fray. One should also resist the temptation to cherry-pick anecdotes, or to present views that comfortably fit certain narratives or one's own preconceptions. Doing so would not only give an inaccurate picture, but risks further inflaming tensions in Thailand. 
 
Background to a Modern Kingship 
 
Thai concepts of monarchy have their origins in Sukhothai, founded in the early part of the 13 th century and generally regarded as the first truly independent Thai kingdom. Here, particularly under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great (1275-1317), was born the ideal of a paternalistic ruler alert to the needs of his people and aware of the fact that his duty was to guide them, a view markedly different from the divine kingship practiced by the Khmers. 
 
The paternalistic ideal was at times lost during the long Ayutthaya period, when Khmer influence regarding kingship reappeared and the monarch became a lofty, inaccessible figure, rarely seen by most citizens. Nevertheless, the four-century era witnessed the reigns of some remarkable rulers whose achievements were far reaching. 
 
With the founding of the Chakri dynasty in 1782 and the establishment of Bangkok as the capital, kingship was based primarily on adherence to Buddhist concepts of virtue. The Bangkok period has produced a succession of unusually able rulers, capable of meeting a variety of challenges both to the country and to the monarchy itself. 
 
Presently, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic form of government. Since 1932, kings of Thailand have exercised their constitutional legislative powers through a bicameral National Assembly, which currently comprises a House of Representatives elected by popular vote and a senate, with one half elected and the other half appointed through the constitutional process. Thai kings exercise executive powers through the cabinet headed by a prime minister, and judicial powers through the law courts. While not directly involved in Thailand's political life, the King exerts a strong moral influence on carefully selected issues.
 
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej: The Working Monarch 
 
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States, where his father, Prince Mahidol of Songkhla, was studying medicine. After his father’s death, he lived mostly in Switzerland with his family. He had a relatively normal youth, displaying notable talents in both music and engineering and becoming fluent in 3 European languages – English, French and German – as well as being at ease in different cultures. When his brother died, he became the 9th Chakri king. Married to Queen Sirikit, King Bhumibol is the father of four grown children. Like the King, all members of the Royal Family perform duties in the interest and welfare of the Thai people. 
 
In his Oath of Accession to the Throne, King Bhumibol Adulyadej pledged to “reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people”. In 1955, the King and Queen made a pioneering trip to the impoverished northeast, then an impoverished, remote region that had never seen a ruling monarch in person and that also, with reason, felt neglected by the central government. The response was overwhelming. The decision to bring the monarchy into direct contact with the provincial population was perhaps the most important of all those taken by His Majesty. He has become the most traveled monarch in Thai history, as well as the best informed about a wide range of rural problems and issues. 
 
To the world, Thailand's face is that of its beloved Monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Admired for his efforts to advance the well-being of the Thai people, particularly those in rural areas, he has provided inspiration far beyond Thailand's borders. The more than 3,000 projects he has initiated have caught the attention of foreign governments and global development experts seeking innovative solutions to poverty, uneven distribution of income and related social problems. Those contributions have been recognised in a multitude of honours-including more than 30 international awards and 20 plus honorary degrees-bestowed upon him for his work. Time Magazine has also featured him on its covers. 
 
More recently, the US-ASEAN Business Council, Inc. in a resolution from the Executive Committee recognized His Majesty's constant work to improve the education, health and welfare of the workers and people of Thailand as well as promote and nurture ties to governments throughout the world. In addition, the United Nations has honoured His Majesty with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award 2006 "for his dedication to develop and industriously uplift the living condition of Thai people all through his 60-year reign". The award was presented by Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations during his visit to Thailand on 26 May 2006.
 
An extraordinarily gifted man in widely varying artistic and cultural fields, his mission to improve the lives of all his people has taken him to all corners of the land. For up to eight months each year, His Majesty used to travel to remote areas to discuss face-to-face with his people their needs and, together with them, devise strategies to resolve their problems and difficulties, often utilizing his personal funds to finance the projects.
 
His subjects' loyalty is founded not just on respect for the institution of the monarchy but on him personally and the many works he has undertaken on their behalf. In brief, he embodies all that is best in Thai culture and traditions, a symbol of continuity from Siam's storied past, and of its future. 
 
The year 2006 marks the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne, making him the present world's longest-reigning Monarch. World Monarchs and Royalties will travel to Bangkok to join with Thais in a grand celebration to pay tribute to His Majesty's achievements and dedication.
 
Throughout 2007, the Government and people of Thailand organized year-long celebrations to commemorate His Majesty the King’s 80 th Birthday Anniversary on 5 December.
 
The Monarchy Under Constitutional Democracy
 
On 25 May 2007, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the Prachadipok Institute, Chulalongkorn University, and Thammasat University coorganised a seminar entitled, .The Monarchy under Constitutional Democracy,. at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok. In addition to honouring H.M. the King and commemorating His 80th Birthday Anniversary, the seminar aimed to promote appreciation and correct understanding of His Majesty the King’s role in and contribution towards Thailand’s democracy and development. The seminar was opened by Mr. Meechai Ruchupan, President NLA, and attended by members of the NLA, representatives from the diplomatic corps, government agencies, NGOs and academic institutions as well as students and the media. The panellists included, amongst others, three former Prime Ministers (Mr. Anand Panyarachun, Mr. Chuan Liikpai and Mr. Banharn Silpa- Archa), Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Chairman of the Council of National Security (CNS) as well as academicians and those with first-hand experiences in the royal projects. A summary of key points made at the seminar is as follows:
 
            - Currently, 29 countries have monarchies whose status, roles, powers, and means of exercising their powers vary in accordance with respective political, social, and cultural backgrounds. Each country and people also has different perceptions and expectations of their monarch. To look at the Thai monarchy through the same lenses as with European or other Asian monarchies would neither by fair, nor provide accurate understanding.
            - Thailand’s successive constitutions contain provisions on the roles and powers of the monarch, which have been crafted on the basis of the country.s tradition, culture, and beliefs. The monarch has no political initiatives and, in issuing royal commands, has to do so upon the recommendations of the National Legislative Assembly and the government which also countersigned and took responsibility for them.
            - The Thai people respect and revere H.M. the King not because of any provision in the Constitution. They do so, first and foremost because of the following:
            - His deeds and contributions to the country and the people, can concretely be seen through over 4,500 royal projects implemented in different parts of the country, which have improved people’s livelihood, earning him an international recognition as a .Development King.
            - His experiences cultivated during the 60-year reign, which has seen 16 constitutions, several elections, 18 coups, more than 20 Prime Ministers and countless cabinet ministers, as well as from his visits to all regions of the country to meet with the people, making him in touch with their problems and concerns.
            - As a consequence, while having no political power, H.M. the King has what one may call “reserved powers”, or moral authority, which is not written in any law nor derived from the succession right, but is given to him by the people who respect and revere him for this deeds and experiences.
            - As a constitutional monarch, H.M. the King has been conscious of and has adhered strictly to the principles of the Constitution and maintains political impartiality. He conscientiously exercises the conventional prerogatives of a monarch.
            - as recognised by western scholars, namely State power in his name - never interfering in politics but having the well-being of the Thai people at heart.
            - In the time of crises, the weakness of Thailand’s political institutions and their failures to resolve the impasse has led people to look up to the monarchy as an established institution with moral authority and closely linked with the people throughout the country’s history. In such cases, H.M. the King maintains his role as a constitutional monarch - not saying who or what is right or wrong nor addressing the substance of the matter.
            - During the Black May crisis in 1992, H.M. the King summoned the leaders of the two confronting sides to a royal audience and told them to work together because the people would be the loser, without saying who was right of wrong. The then PM decided to resign, and the crisis ended.
            - The royal audience after the 19 September intervention was granted on the request by the Leader of the Council of Democratic Reform to report to H.M. the King on the situation and the reasons for the military’s decision to undertake intervention.
 
Sufficiency Economy is a set of tools and principles that help communities, corporations and governments managing globalization - maximising its benefits and minimising its costs - by making wise decisions that promote sustainable development, equity, and resilience against shocks. As such, the Sufficiency Economy is a much needed ‘survival strategy’ in a world of economic uncertainty and environmental threats 
 
“Thai Middle Path” is key to fighting poverty, coping with economic risk and promoting corporate social responsibility.
 
The philosophy of sufficiency economy has been developed and advocated for the past three decades by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand based on H.M..s accumulative experiences in rural development. After the economic crisis in 1997, His Majesty reiterated and expanded on the philosophy in numerous remarks during 1997 and 1998. The philosophy stresses the Buddhist principle of the “middle path” as a guiding principle for people at all levels in pursuing their livelihood. The philosophy of sufficiency economy includes three elements: moderation, reasonableness, and self-awareness and requires two conditions for the philosophy to work: knowledge and virtues.
 
Thailand’s “Sufficiency Economy” holds the key for reducing poverty, combating corruption, and buffering the country against financial crises. Sufficiency Economy and Human Development de-mystifies this economic philosophy and shows how its practical applications in business, politics, education, farming, and even everyday conduct have a wide global relevance.
 
Gaining momentum in Thailand after the 1997 financial crisis, Sufficiency Economy thinking advocates economic stability over unbridled growth. It celebrates sustainable development, sound macro-economic policies, and the equitable sharing of the benefits of economic prosperity.
 
Thailand  Human  Development  Report  2007:  Sufficiency Economy and Human Development, published by the United Nations Development Programme, is the result of a year-long collaboration between Thai and international experts, and the contribution of many Thai officials and academics committed to bringing Sufficiency Economy thinking to a wider audience. The report was launched on 9 January at Government House in Bangkok and was presided over by the Prime Minister. The report highlights the stark contrast between Thailand’s Impressive overall economic and social progress and the many deep-rooted development challenges that remain. Incomes are highly skewed, many people still live in poverty, and the provision of essential services differs greatly in quality and quantity in different areas of the country. At the same time the natural environment is under great stress and family and community life is strained by migration and urbanization.
 
Derived from these messages are specific actions that communities, corporations, civil society and government in Thailand can undertake now to move Sufficiency Economy forward:
 
Sufficiency Economy and Human Development
 
Sufficiency Economy is a set of tools and principles that help communities, corporations and governments managing globalization - maximising its benefits and minimising its costs - by making wise decisions that promote sustainable development, equity, and resilience against shocks. As such, the Sufficiency Economy is a much needed ‘survival strategy’ in a world of economic uncertainty and environmental threats 
 
“Thai Middle Path” is key to fighting poverty, coping with economic risk and promoting corporate social responsibility.
 
The philosophy of sufficiency economy has been developed and advocated for the past three decades by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand based on H.M..s accumulative experiences in rural development. After the economic crisis in 1997, His Majesty reiterated and expanded on the philosophy in numerous remarks during 1997 and 1998. The philosophy stresses the Buddhist principle of the “middle path” as a guiding principle for people at all levels in pursuing their livelihood. The philosophy of sufficiency economy includes three elements: moderation, reasonableness, and self-awareness and requires two conditions for the philosophy to work: knowledge and virtues.
 
Thailand’s “Sufficiency Economy” holds the key for reducing poverty, combating corruption, and buffering the country against financial crises. Sufficiency Economy and Human Development de-mystifies this economic philosophy and shows how its practical applications in business, politics, education, farming, and even everyday conduct have a wide global relevance.
 
Gaining momentum in Thailand after the 1997 financial crisis, Sufficiency Economy thinking advocates economic stability over unbridled growth. It celebrates sustainable development, sound macro-economic policies, and the equitable sharing of the benefits of economic prosperity.
 
Thailand  Human  Development  Report  2007:  Sufficiency Economy and Human Development, published by the United Nations Development Programme, is the result of a year-long collaboration between Thai and international experts, and the contribution of many Thai officials and academics committed to bringing Sufficiency Economy thinking to a wider audience. The report was launched on 9 January at Government House in Bangkok and was presided over by the Prime Minister. The report highlights the stark contrast between Thailand’s Impressive overall economic and social progress and the many deep-rooted development challenges that remain. Incomes are highly skewed, many people still live in poverty, and the provision of essential services differs greatly in quality and quantity in different areas of the country. At the same time the natural environment is under great stress and family and community life is strained by migration and urbanization.
 
Derived from these messages are specific actions that communities, corporations, civil society and government in Thailand can undertake now to move Sufficiency Economy forward:
 
1. The Sufficiency Economy is central to alleviating poverty and reducing the economic vulnerability of the poor. For instance:
 
Make the Sufficiency approach central to government antipoverty policy through schemes to build local capacity for self-reliance production;
Provide the landless and land-poor people with land from the extensive reserves of land that is unused;
Implement the community control over local resources that was promised in the 1997 Constitution by passing the community forestry bill and other enabling legislation;
Ensure development spending is not skewed to certain provinces with political clout, but is equitably distributed, targeted as areas of real, and used more creatively.
 
2. The Sufficiency Economy is a means towards community empowerment and the strengthening of communities as foundations of the local economy. For instance:
 
Target community development efforts, urban and rural, towards building capacity for self-help and sustainable economic activities;
Strengthen community capability to manage finances, and investigate feasibility of converting village funds into local banks in order to promote savings;
Ensure local government bodies provide opportunity for community participation;
Facilitate efforts to share learning and best practices of successful community groups;
Replace hand-out policies with schemes that strengthen communities. own capacity to provide for all of their members’ needs;
Encourage corporations to support community projects in line with Sufficiency principles as part of corporate social responsibility.
 
3. The Sufficiency Economy takes corporate responsibility to a new level by raising the strength of commitment to practices conducive to long-term profitability in a competitive environment. For instance:
 
Incorporate Sufficiency principles into training for corporate directors and into the code corporate governance enforced by the Stock Exchange of Thailand
Persuade the major business associations to propagate Sufficiency principles among their members;
Provide more widespread publicity for businesses of all sizes that have utilised Sufficiency principles in ways that benefit both business and society at large;
Create an advisory service to help corporations align their social projects with Sufficiency principles.
 
4. Sufficiency principles are vital for improving standards of governance in public administration. For instance:
 
Find ways to immunise the institutions that monitor corruption and malfeasance in public services from political contamination and influence;
Integrate Sufficiency principles into the Public Administration Plan, including key performance indicators used for the evaluation of government departments and personnel;
Create a framework based on sufficiency principles for monitoring decision-making and implementation in public sector projects;
Reform the Freedom of Information Act so that it truly serves its objective of ensuring that people have access to information.
 
5. The Sufficiency Economy can guide macro-economic policy making to immunise a country against shocks and to plan strategies for more equitable and sustainable growth. For instance:
 
Ensure implementation of Thailand.s Tenth Plan fulfilling its commitment to the Sufficiency Economy, and meeting the aspirations of all who contribute to the drafting;
Initiate policies to reverse the decline in the domestic savings rate so that the economy is more self-reliant for capital, and households are better prepared for the future;
Pursue a more consistent energy policy focused on greater self-reliance by accelerating research on substitute fuels and finding more economies in energy usage;
Further develop the deservedly popular universal health scheme using Sufficiency principles to ensure it is efficient and sustainable.
 
6. Sufficiency thinking demands a transformation of human values, a “revolution in the mindset”, necessary for the advancement of human development. For instance:
 
Upgrade the quality of education, including both content and pedagogical methods, to fulfill the key preconditions of knowledge and integrity for successful operation of the Sufficiency Economy;
Expand the application of Sufficiency principles in the management and administration of schools;
Provide more support for non-formal education which responds to the needs of communities for life-long learning;
Explore ways to promote Sufficiency thinking within the mass media including more airtime for programming with social content and public participation;
Provide social recognition for people in communities, business, public service, and other sectors who act as leaders or role models of the Sufficiency Economy.
 
“We believe that Sufficiency Economy principles are applicable around the world, especially for rapidly developing countries that are experiencing some of the same pressures as Thailand,” said Joana Merlin-Scholtes, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand.
 
Royal Succession 
 
The Royal succession is not an issue in Thailand. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has been proclaimed Heir to the throne since 1972. There are clearly stipulated rules and procedures on this matter. Both the Palace Law on Succession and the remaining section of the Thai Constitution would ensure a smooth transition, should the need ever arise.   To speculate how the issue would unfold or prejudge the heir apparent based on rumour and hearsay is therefore inappropriate. 
 
Lèse-majesté law
 
While Thailand supports and highly values freedom of expression, there is a certain degree of restriction in order to protect the rights or reputations of others and to uphold national security and public order. The lèse-majesté law is part of Thailand's Criminal Code.  It gives protection to the rights or reputations of the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent in a similar way libel law does for commoners.  It is not aimed at curbing people's rights to freedom of expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom including debates about the monarchy as an institution. The law is also put in place to protect the institution as its noblesse oblige prevents it from seeking legal redress against its subjects for defamatory remarks. Nevertheless, Thailand's lèse-majesté law, like any law in every legal system of the world, is open to the process of accommodating itself to the ever-changing social conditions.  
 
In his 2005 birthday address to the nation, His Majesty the King made it amply clear that he was not averse to criticism. He expressed his discomfort with the lèse majesté law and his disagreement with the notion that “the King can do no wrong”. However, despite his dissatisfaction with the law, the King is not in a position to change it, as legislative power lies entirely with the Parliament. As a matter of fact, the law was approved by the Parliament, which reflected the wills of the Thai people who would not tolerate any criticism against His Majesty. 
 
As with other criminal offences, proceedings on lèse-majesté cases are conducted in accordance with due legal process. Under the Thai Criminal Procedure Code, a person who finds a suspected lèse-majesté act may, on his or her own, set in motion legal prosecution by lodging a formal complaint.  Facts and evidence must then be gathered and investigated first by the police to establish the case before it can be submitted to and be screened by the public prosecutor.  Only thereafter may the public prosecutor bring the case before the court. Here it should be noted that complaints are dropped if the police find no ground to proceed. Throughout the legal process, the defendant has the right to contest the charges and the right to a fair trial, as well as assistance from a legal counsel, if the case is brought before the court. The court may decide to hold a trial on a lèse-majesté case on camera.  Thai law provides that the judge may use discretion to hold closed trials in certain cases if they are deemed to involve sensitive matters in the interest of public order, good morals or national security, which is consistent with international law (Article 14 of the ICCPR) and not dissimilar to the practice in other countries. As for those found guilty, they have the right to appeal with higher courts, and once their cases become final, they may request royal pardons.  It is not uncommon for royal pardons to be granted in such cases. Since the seizure of power by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on 22 May 2014, there have been claims that the number of those prosecuted under Section 112 of the Criminal Code has increased immensely. However, it should be taken into consideration that a number of cases which are currently being pursued by the concerned authorities and reported regularly by the media are actually ongoing cases from previous governments. 
 
Crown Properties 
 
Forbes’ special report on the World’s Richest Royal in 2008 which stipulated that the King of Thailand was the world’s richest monarch required reassessment. This is because, in its calculation of the King’s personal assets, Forbes included assets under the supervision, preservation, and management of the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), which are held in trust for the Crown and the Thai nation and not at the King’s personal disposal. On the contrary, a report “The World’s Richest 200” of the Sunday Times on 29 May 2011 provided different narrative. It stated that the first three wealthiest Royals/Heads of States were from Brunei, Saudi Arabia and the UAE respectively; the King of Thailand was not on this list at all.
 
It should be noted that the CPB was established under the Royal Assets Structuring Act of 1936, 1941 and 1948, which separated the royal assets into three categories, namely “His Majesty’s personal assets”, “crown property” and “public property.” The Act also provides the legal framework for clearly differentiating the three categories of the royal assets. It, for instance, states that the “crown property” and “public property” are eligible for tax exemption whereas His Majesty’s personal assets are not. It is also the duty of the CPB under this Act to administer the assets under its Board of Directors chaired ex officio by the Minister of Finance. Most importantly, the CPB has been striving for a balance between the financial and social outcomes of its activities to benefit all of its stakeholders, letting out more than 85 per cent of its property with rents below market levels. 

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