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A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand's Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century

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Struggling to emerge from a despotic past, 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. Long dreaded by Thais, the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is expected to unleash even greater instability. Yet in spite of the impact of the crisis Struggling to emerge from a despotic past, 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. Long dreaded by Thais, 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 analyzed, because Thailand's draconian lese majesté law has silenced most discussion - until now. Breaking Thailand's draconian lese majesté Andrew MacGregor Marshall is one of the only journalists covering contemporary Thailand who tells the whole story. He provides a comprehensive explanation that makes sense of the crisis for the first time, revealing the unacknowledged succession conflict that has become entangled with the struggle for democracy in Thailand.


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Struggling to emerge from a despotic past, 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. Long dreaded by Thais, the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is expected to unleash even greater instability. Yet in spite of the impact of the crisis Struggling to emerge from a despotic past, 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. Long dreaded by Thais, 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 analyzed, because Thailand's draconian lese majesté law has silenced most discussion - until now. Breaking Thailand's draconian lese majesté Andrew MacGregor Marshall is one of the only journalists covering contemporary Thailand who tells the whole story. He provides a comprehensive explanation that makes sense of the crisis for the first time, revealing the unacknowledged succession conflict that has become entangled with the struggle for democracy in Thailand.

30 review for A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand's Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thornthawat Thongnab

    This is one of the most terrifying books I've ever read. And the ban didn't have anything to do with that sentiment. As a breakdown of Thai history from the Ayutthaya era onward, this is an excellent book that makes clear the machinations behind many historical events we learned about in school years ago. As an analysis of Thailand's modern political crises, it falls short. The author lays out his theories right from the start and uses them as the lenses through which he views all events, and thi This is one of the most terrifying books I've ever read. And the ban didn't have anything to do with that sentiment. As a breakdown of Thai history from the Ayutthaya era onward, this is an excellent book that makes clear the machinations behind many historical events we learned about in school years ago. As an analysis of Thailand's modern political crises, it falls short. The author lays out his theories right from the start and uses them as the lenses through which he views all events, and this leads to strange patches in which he credits several massive historical (and current!) occurrences to willful ignorance or downright malevolence by the powers that be instead of far simpler political or humanistic motivations that actually fit the 'narrative' better. Also, the gravest, most controversial statements (or accusations) appear without citation, making it difficult to determine if they are the author's views, factual analysis, or information provided by concrete sources. Of course, revealing the sources for this information will lead to certain death to those involved, so the absence of citation here is very reasonable. That doesn't make it any less of a shame. The book has its fair share of flaws, and its version of history is bound to infuriate far more people than it enlightens. Only time can tell if it will go down as a heralded masterpiece or a load of misguided, if well-researched, baloney. However, Andrew MacGregor Marshall wrote this book to tell us, the people of Thailand, that we need to talk. As a conversation starter, A Kingdom in Crisis is a spectacular, explosive success.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anna Gallegos

    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 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    I am a fan of Marshall and his work. This monograph describes the history and nature of the political crisis playing out in the Kingdom of Thailand. MacGregor argues that Rama 9, the king of Thailand, is not as he is invariably portrayed—a powerful and decisive ruler—the "Father of the Kingdom", rather that he is no more than "a pliant and mostly powerless monarch who tended to do what he was told." The true rulers of the Kingdom are the traditional elite, the landed aristocracy, who dominate the I am a fan of Marshall and his work. This monograph describes the history and nature of the political crisis playing out in the Kingdom of Thailand. MacGregor argues that Rama 9, the king of Thailand, is not as he is invariably portrayed—a powerful and decisive ruler—the "Father of the Kingdom", rather that he is no more than "a pliant and mostly powerless monarch who tended to do what he was told." The true rulers of the Kingdom are the traditional elite, the landed aristocracy, who dominate the military, civil service, the legal system, and politics. Throughout his long reign Rama 9 has done little more than allow himself to be used as a figure head, and to lend his prestige, wealth and carefully constructed reverence to strengthen the status quo. The crisis underway is a struggle between the traditional aristocracy, the new capitalist class, led by the billionaire and former Prime Minister Taksin, and the emergent Thai working class, now more powerful than before. This is a struggle that has damaged the country and penalises its people. The elite are desperate to retain their power, and are terrified of the succession of the King's son, who is aligned to Taksin. This elite are opposed to democracy, and are corrupt and ruthless. In 2014 the democratic and mildly reformist Thai government was overthrown in a coup. Civil war, following the death of the King, is likely.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Collins

    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 i 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vykki

    This book had a lot of facts and the author did a lot of research. I did learn a lot about Thailand if you like non-fiction you would like this book. I won this book on Goodreads Thank you.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sougeitu

    與旅人能看到的完全不同的事,僅憑對泰國社會的簡單了解甚至無法很好地讀懂。 但毫無疑問,從詳細度上來說是非常優秀的紀實。

  7. 4 out of 5

    TG Lin

    這本多年前出版的、聽說很「勁爆」的書《泰王的新衣︰從神話到紅衫軍,泰國王室不讓你知道的秘密》,我今天從圖書館預約到之後,發現作者簡直是帶著「發現猴子居然會穿衣服」的不正常心態,來描寫這個國家。   哇塞,泰國有國王哩!哎唷,泰國國王一直在神話自己哩!哇,泰國歷史還有很多暴君出現呀!吼,原來統治菁英們彼此會鬥爭哩!咦,原來泰王是虛君喲!啊,泰王居然勾結軍方搞政變!呵,王后逼國王一定要立那不成材的王儲!啊,王后又打算廢掉王儲自己執政!……   我在閱讀的過程中,覺得這位英國作者不斷發出諸如此類的誇張驚訝,一副少見多怪的模樣。總的來說,這不是一本「正經」的作品,而是以一位西方高高在上的角度,用來睥睨這個東方國度當中的各種不合己意的情況。正因為他的少見多怪,好像忘了他的母國英狤猁也是王權神授到君主立憲的政治制度哩。   --- 基本上,我覺得該作者用這種變態心理看待泰國,是非常不像樣的作法。在中南半島諸國當中,也只有泰國從近代以來,稱得上是最和平發展至今的國家。現代的主流思想不是頌揚「人權」的嗎?在它的鄰近諸國全都烽火遍地、顛沛流離、民窮財困的情況之下,這個還能每年吸引全世界觀光客到訪的國家,作者何需用如此 這本多年前出版的、聽說很「勁爆」的書《泰王的新衣︰從神話到紅衫軍,泰國王室不讓你知道的秘密》,我今天從圖書館預約到之後,發現作者簡直是帶著「發現猴子居然會穿衣服」的不正常心態,來描寫這個國家。   哇塞,泰國有國王哩!哎唷,泰國國王一直在神話自己哩!哇,泰國歷史還有很多暴君出現呀!吼,原來統治菁英們彼此會鬥爭哩!咦,原來泰王是虛君喲!啊,泰王居然勾結軍方搞政變!呵,王后逼國王一定要立那不成材的王儲!啊,王后又打算廢掉王儲自己執政!……   我在閱讀的過程中,覺得這位英國作者不斷發出諸如此類的誇張驚訝,一副少見多怪的模樣。總的來說,這不是一本「正經」的作品,而是以一位西方高高在上的角度,用來睥睨這個東方國度當中的各種不合己意的情況。正因為他的少見多怪,好像忘了他的母國英狤猁也是王權神授到君主立憲的政治制度哩。   --- 基本上,我覺得該作者用這種變態心理看待泰國,是非常不像樣的作法。在中南半島諸國當中,也只有泰國從近代以來,稱得上是最和平發展至今的國家。現代的主流思想不是頌揚「人權」的嗎?在它的鄰近諸國全都烽火遍地、顛沛流離、民窮財困的情況之下,這個還能每年吸引全世界觀光客到訪的國家,作者何需用如此刻薄到極點的語氣嘲諷?   的確,泰國近代史的發展,在歐美「民主」的標準之下,絕對是不及格的,軍事政變跟搞嘉年華一樣頻繁。但所謂「民主/鄉民專政/Democratia」,真的會讓人民過得比較好嗎?典型在眼前,看這十年來被整得七葷八素的「民主歡樂送」國家,難道人民有比待在獨裁者統治下更加幸福嗎?(我知道這群「有民主真好」崇拜者的反駁︰啊啊啊~他們那才不叫真民主,是民粹、是假的民主啦。但我的疑問是,如果西方所謂的民主真好都這麼容易會失敗,消費者要自負其責,那這根本是件不值得購買的商品吶。)   --- 本書作者的許多立論是很糟糕的。如前所述,他對於人類歷史的發展認識不足,再加上心理的變態歧視,只要抓到一件泰國歷史的事蹟,便想盡辦法加以往負面解釋。可以說,作者並不是想帶讀者認識這個國家,他只希望讀者見識到泰國王室有多麼黑暗、政治鬥爭有多麼糟糕、軍方有多麼反民主。但我不禁想問,世界上各國的統治者,不也都是如此德性的嗎?   作者只是一個記者,看來並沒有太多的「內線」消息,因此他對於整個泰國政局的發展,也只是先用他預先構築好的幾個模板加以「套」進去的。所以他提到,拉瑪八世之死,是由於他的弟弟在嬉遊中不小心朝他頭上開了一槍,然後軍方從此就以這個「真相」來威脅國王。但作者的證據呢?原來是從網頁上得到的說法。哇哩咧!至於 1932 年政變後的泰王究竟有無實權,就隨便作者鋪陳,一下子說蒲美蓬(拉瑪九世)被架空無力、一下子又可以說他在背後暗中支持軍方搞鬼——你搞得我好亂呀。   妖書無誤。本書讓我讀來覺得比較有價值的,是最後三章談到塔信政權起伏的「大事記」整理;略去作者猜想某人心裡是怎麼想的,至少在這些客觀發生過的事件下,特別是黃衫軍紅衫同交互折騰的始末,應該算是本書值得一讀的部分了。

  8. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    First off, I live in Thailand and support a return to democratic rule in the country, so I am not opposed to Marshall’s purpose in writing the book, but this book really misses the mark in so many areas. Marshal takes an overly simplistic and judgemental approach to describing Thai culture and history, as well as presenting rumour and speculation as fact. His predictions about the royal succession appear to have also been way off the mark. He relies way too much on cherry picking quotes of others First off, I live in Thailand and support a return to democratic rule in the country, so I am not opposed to Marshall’s purpose in writing the book, but this book really misses the mark in so many areas. Marshal takes an overly simplistic and judgemental approach to describing Thai culture and history, as well as presenting rumour and speculation as fact. His predictions about the royal succession appear to have also been way off the mark. He relies way too much on cherry picking quotes of others to make his points and the work lacks any type of theoretical focus or critical analysis of the sources which support his opinions. This book is neither good scholarship nor good journalism. A more scholarly or informed work exploring some of these topics by a top notch scholar or well informed and connected journalist willing to burn bridges and never return to Thailand is welcomed, but this work does not appear to be based on objective analysis of known facts, and instead is a biased presentation of rumour and gossip by someone without a strong understanding of the culture or any real insider information.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Though I already knew the stance of the author and the fact that the book is banned in Thailand, I can't help but feel that this account of the Thai monarchy and it's role could have been more informative had the author remained a little more objective. There are times when details feel like they have been omitted or edited slightly to accommodate the author's personal views and judgements. It is an interesting read but I feel there have been better works written on the Thai Royal Family which a Though I already knew the stance of the author and the fact that the book is banned in Thailand, I can't help but feel that this account of the Thai monarchy and it's role could have been more informative had the author remained a little more objective. There are times when details feel like they have been omitted or edited slightly to accommodate the author's personal views and judgements. It is an interesting read but I feel there have been better works written on the Thai Royal Family which are less focused on the author's opinions and more about presenting the facts for the reader to make up their own mind about the situation.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Akavit

    This is an important book in Thailand's modern history. Of course, the book was automatically banned in Thailand for obvious reasons. I bought it from Kindle when it first published (2014) by curiosity. Even all the stories are skeptical but I find it is an extraordinary book for the time when the political crisis ended by the 2014 military coup. Annoyed by the coup I want to know more about the trust. This is an underrated yet important book that I recommend by anyone who wants to be "Tasawang" This is an important book in Thailand's modern history. Of course, the book was automatically banned in Thailand for obvious reasons. I bought it from Kindle when it first published (2014) by curiosity. Even all the stories are skeptical but I find it is an extraordinary book for the time when the political crisis ended by the 2014 military coup. Annoyed by the coup I want to know more about the trust. This is an underrated yet important book that I recommend by anyone who wants to be "Tasawang"(enlighten) for the political situation in Thailand.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    Por dónde empezar... No me escondo: este libro es fascinante y un tostón a partes iguales. Fascinante porque Tailandia es un país en el que estoy muy interesada y tiene una historia muy enrevesada. Un tostón porque, si como yo, eres un noob total... hay tanto nombre y tanta fecha que una se acaba perdiendo. Aún con todo eso me parece que el mensaje del autor es claro, y aunque el libro esté técnicamente un poco desactualizado porque el rey murió en 2016 creo que sigue teniendo validez varios años Por dónde empezar... No me escondo: este libro es fascinante y un tostón a partes iguales. Fascinante porque Tailandia es un país en el que estoy muy interesada y tiene una historia muy enrevesada. Un tostón porque, si como yo, eres un noob total... hay tanto nombre y tanta fecha que una se acaba perdiendo. Aún con todo eso me parece que el mensaje del autor es claro, y aunque el libro esté técnicamente un poco desactualizado porque el rey murió en 2016 creo que sigue teniendo validez varios años después.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Pietersma

    A book with many detailed and a very strong, clear narrative. However, the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether his assessment is not too rigid and hard, creating an almost doomsday scenario or self-evident story which makes you wonder if this is all true, how come the monarchy still exists in Thailand an show Thai people believe it? The bashing seems rather one-sided, which lacks here for a full understanding.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nguyen

    This book is somewhat difficult to rate. It was the only English-language book I could find about the recent politics of modern Thailand. The author is also brave in covering the topics that he does, which got the book banned and forced him to leave the country. For those things I gave it more stars and think it's worth reading for those interested in the country. I did feel like I learned a good amount about Thai history, however I did feel like it could have been done better. There is a lot of This book is somewhat difficult to rate. It was the only English-language book I could find about the recent politics of modern Thailand. The author is also brave in covering the topics that he does, which got the book banned and forced him to leave the country. For those things I gave it more stars and think it's worth reading for those interested in the country. I did feel like I learned a good amount about Thai history, however I did feel like it could have been done better. There is a lot of narration and play-by-play of important political events, but often I wanted more background and historical context to help it all make more sense. It's worth noting that the book is banned in Thailand, and has some potentially serious penalties associated if you bring it into the country (like several years in prison and large fines). Something to think about if you're planning to travel there.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Burlison

    This is a dangerous book as it directly challenges the Thai narrative of the country’s history and political struggles. An absolutely shocking, well researched and engaging read - I could hardly put it down.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Very well written, nice walkthrough of Thailand's monarchy. Can't help but think that the criticisms stem from some sweeping statements, which led to me view the whole book as a bit too pessimistic. Still good nonetheless and hope there is a new edition now Vajiralongkorn is now King

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Högberg

    Gave me a considerably deeper understanding of the past and current political situation in Thailand.

  17. 4 out of 5

    View Riddell

    Can't really comment much. I live in Thailand. Just wanted to read it to see what all the fuss was. The problem I have is that since the big sources cannot be named, it was hard to decide which was real and which was mere speculation.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Peaceful Summer

    Highly recommended for those who want to know about Thailand internal political and class conflict.My only grip is Mr.andrew lack of acknowledgement and consequences due to colonialism in early chapters though unconsciously.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Before I read this book, I knew very little about Thai politics. I knew they liked their king, there were lots of protests that involved different colored shirts, there's an occasional military coup, and an exiled former prime minister (Thaksin Shinawatra) bought a British soccer team. The king, Rama IX, is 87 years old and in ill health. Marshall's contention is that the political upheaval that has rocked Thailand since 2005, which on the surface is a contest between Thaksin, a populist strongma Before I read this book, I knew very little about Thai politics. I knew they liked their king, there were lots of protests that involved different colored shirts, there's an occasional military coup, and an exiled former prime minister (Thaksin Shinawatra) bought a British soccer team. The king, Rama IX, is 87 years old and in ill health. Marshall's contention is that the political upheaval that has rocked Thailand since 2005, which on the surface is a contest between Thaksin, a populist strongman, and the traditional elites, is actually about the royal succession. Thaksin supports the designated heir, crown prince Vajiralongkorn while the elites fear that a Thaksin-Vajiralongkorn alliance would freeze them out from the access to the palace that has been their basis of support. They would like to see his sister, Sirindhorn installed as regent. In Thailand itself, it is complicated to discuss these issues because of the draconian lèse majesté laws that have seen people sent to prison for years for saying anything disparaging about the monarchy. This book also contains a brief history of Thailand's transformation into a modern state, contrasting the official palace narrative with a more objective accounting. It's just enough to help make sense of the current situation. I highly recommend this book as an introduction to Thai politics. Thailand will be going through some interesting times when Rama IX dies, and Marshall had provided a great guide to interpret these upcoming events.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anne Charlotte LE DIOT

    Just finished it a day after King Bhumibol died and that's been most enlightening... True journalism. A must-read for all interested in South East Asia and how a country that has such a polished image in the eye of the general Western public can be so polarized, so crippled by propaganda and stifled by a minority who's living in an age where despise of the majority is so prevalent. Truly an eye opener on what the monarchy has done to this people and country. And not just the monarchy. A totally Just finished it a day after King Bhumibol died and that's been most enlightening... True journalism. A must-read for all interested in South East Asia and how a country that has such a polished image in the eye of the general Western public can be so polarized, so crippled by propaganda and stifled by a minority who's living in an age where despise of the majority is so prevalent. Truly an eye opener on what the monarchy has done to this people and country. And not just the monarchy. A totally anachronic business elite and army too.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hunter Marston

    A scathing critique of the Thai monarchy and modern Thai politics. The history is a little twisty and poorly edited, but the last chapter with Marshall's prognosis for the future is spot-on. Worth a read, with a grain of salt, knowing Marshall's out to get the Thai royal palace no holds barred, and skipping out on a range of politics, culture, and history that fall outside of the throne and inner palace intrigues.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andy Mac

    An interesting book about the political history of Thailand, recommended by a friend. Some of it is disjointed and a little hard to follow the jumps in time the author makes, but gives a very strong overview of the intense politics playing its way through the country as well as some of the causes of the various coups and government crackdowns.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David

    a book that looks into the "truth" of Thailand. This book reveals the truth behind Red Shirt, Yellow Shirt and the relationship with Thai King. The dirty secrets and the politics behind for hundred of years. This book is predicting more crisis and social unrest to come. Genuine book!

  24. 5 out of 5

    !Tæmbuŝu

    KOBOBOOKS Reviewed by Asian Review of Books KOBOBOOKS Reviewed by Asian Review of Books

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter Goldston

    Probably totally accurate assessment A rework of other materials but well updated. My poor Thailand. This time? Let the light in and allow both sides some victories.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    This book is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand Thailand's modern history. A very bold account given the law of Lese Majeste.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-3... http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-3...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thanakorn

    I wait for the day the Thai Republic would be proclaimed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. A fascinating book on an area of the world I hadn't really paid much attention to. Reading this has encouraged me to research the crisis in Thailand.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad Kamal

    cool

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