Pavin Chachavalpongpun's picture
Affiliated Fellow
Pavin Chachavalpongpun

The Thai monarchy has played an important part in Thai political life. In 1932, the centuries-old absolute monarchy was abolished. Thailand has since adopted a constitutional monarchy as a model of governance. Thailand in the post-1932 period witnessed the declining power of the monarchy. But the advent of the Cold War shifted the position of the monarchy in politics. The United States, with a stern mission to eliminate the communist threat in this part of the world, saw an opportunity to forge an alliance with the Thai monarchy and military. During this period, the United States was able to transform Thailand into its client state, successfully manufacturing a Thai policy, which was pro-American, pro-monarchy, and anti-communist. It is fair to conclude that the regaining of power for the Thai monarchy was possible because of American support.

In retrospect, Siam, the former name of Thailand, became the first Asian country to sign an official treaty with the United States. Bilateral ties can be traced back as far as 1818. But not until 1833 did the two countries sign a Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Relations continued to blossom without interruption. The United States implemented a foreign policy designed to entrench its foothold in Thailand; and in so doing, it offered its backing to the monarchy through the years. In other words, the wellbeing of the monarchy could be construed as one where the wellbeing of the United States was equally well preserved. After the end of the Cold War, particularly in the wake of the 9/11 incident, the United States granted the status of a major non-NATA ally to Thailand in order to seek the Thai endorsement of its War on Terror. When Thaksin Shinawatra strolled into the premiership in 2001, the relationship between Thailand and the United States would peak. A negotiation in terms of FTA was initiated. The United States paid greater attention to the Cobra Gold, a joint military exercise with Thailand, considered the largest in the Asia-Pacific region. However, little did it know that the Thai political landscape was about to shift, with Thaksin eager to write his own political script to contest the network monarchy that had dominated Thai politics since the Cold War.

Yet, despite the arrival of alternative forces in the political scene, the United States’ loyalty to the monarchy was unchanged. Metaphorically, the United States remained “trapped” in the Cold War and refused to accept a shift in the Thai political domain. The US’s pro-monarchy position has partly exacerbated the Thai crisis in which the political fault line has been drawn on the monarchy.

The above context will guide my research plan during my time at the International Institute for Asian Studies.

Field

  • Domestic Politics and International Relations of Thailand

Country of origin

Thailand

Period of stay at IIAS

16/10/2018 to 15/01/2019

Home institute

Research topic

A Royal Republic? The Thai Monarchy and the United States

IIAS · Rapenburg 59 · 2311 GJ Leiden · the Netherlands · T +31-71-5272227 · F +31-71-5274162 · E IIAS@iias.nl © 2018 IIAS