IIAS Lunch Lecture

Time of a Dangerous Interregnum in Thailand

Lecture by Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun, IIAS fellow from the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Japan.

Lunch is provided. Registration is required.

Written almost a hundred year ago, Antonio Gramsci asserted, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” During this period, the “interregnum”, society could experience a myriad of problems deriving from a great anxiety of a possible shift of status quo. In ancient times, interregnum signified a time lag partitioning the death of the foregoing royal sovereign from the enthronement of a new one. The royal succession most inevitably brought about an interruption in the continuity of government, law, economy, social order, as well as the people’s faith. Gramsci’s concept of an interregnum elucidates well into a situation whereby the old social order lost its grip and was no longer authoritative, and at the same time, a new social order either had not yet been designed or was too weak to ensure the functioning of society. In this interregnum, the political space could become anarchic. In some cases, violence could ensue.

The Thai protracted crisis is a reflection of Gramsci’s concept. To be more specific, the current royal transition exposes a dangerous interregnum in which the political system of the past, imbued within the institutionalization of the late king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, as the ultimate source of political legitimacy above elected institutions, is dying. Meanwhile, a new political system, experimented in the past decade and spearheaded by alternative political forces, like that of the Shinawatras, has remained unborn. From the coup of 2014, through the official end of the Bhumibol reign in 2016, Thailand has been entrapped in the interregnum. The monarchy of yesteryear is no longer in the position of providing political stability. In parallel, a new political model has not been fully envisaged. In this critical moment, the guardians of the old regime have fiercely resisted changes. Meanwhile, the new monarch, King Vajiralongkorn, is lacking in moral authority. The royal political network is only able to hold onto power through tanks and politicized judiciaries. But Thai politics is simmering. Angry crowds are multiplying. The interregnum has produced a legitimacy crisis both in the outgoing regime and the unborn one.

The speaker will discuss the nature of the interregnum and the impacts on Thai politics, as well as the upcoming election in February 2019.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. He is currently a fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), in Leiden. Earning his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Pavin is also a chief editor of the online journal Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, in which all articles are translated from English into Japanese, Thai, Indonesia Bahasa, Filipino and Vietnamese. After the coup of 2014, the junta summoned him twice for being critical of the monarchy and the military. He rejected the summons. As a result, a warrant was issued for his arrest and his Thai passport was revoked, forcing him to apply for a refugee status in Japan.


Registration (required)

If you would like to attend this lecture, please register via our webform (before Friday, 14:00 if you would IIAS to provide lunch). 

About IIAS Lunch Lectures

Every month, one of the IIAS affiliated fellows will give an informal presentation about his/her work-in-progress for colleagues and others interested. Lunch lectures are sometimes also organised for visiting scholars.

IIAS organises these lectures to provide the research community with an opportunity to freely discuss ongoing research and exchange thoughts and ideas. Anyone with an interest in the subject matter at hand is welcome to attend and join the discussion.