The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: monarchy

Thai “democrarchy”

by fpman

Thai Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is about to have his third wife’s, that is, Princess Srirasmi Akrapongpreecha’s family stripped of royal entitlements, according to reports, and most likely a divorce is brewing along with this.

This comes related to allegations of corruption against an uncle of the princess, a police general, who may have been party to some serious smuggling and gambling crime, and may have been involved in soliciting bribes regularly. The uncle in question is Pongpat Chayaphan, formerly the head of Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau. He has been arrested together with seven colleagues of his.

This source allows a peek into some royal intrigue these days, within the ranks of the royal cabinet, known as the Privy Council:

“The prince has been described in secret cables liberated by Wikileaks from the US Embassy as unstable. Members of the Privy Council have confided that they fear his elevation to the thrown and would prefer his sister, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.  However, the laws of succession specify that the heir to the throne must be a male.”

So the case is an interesting combination of corruption and positioning for power. To me an even more interesting aspect of the story is this tidbit, however, from the previously linked BBC article:

“Until now the severity of the lese majeste law criminalising any critical comment about the monarchy meant that no Thai media had pointed out the family connection.”

“Lèse-majesté laws” (laws on injury to majesty) are supposedly an historical feature of absolute monarchies. That you cannot insult the honour of a royal family is not really compatible with post-monarchic, let alone democratic, political arrangements. Mixing the two results in “democrarchy” which may be as awkward as it sounds. Yet Thailand has a lèse-majesté law and it apparently is a major obstacle in the way of free discourse, according to this study for example. As past application of the law reveals to us, Thai authorities are even ready to incarcerate a US citizen for two years for posting excerpts of a book about the king that has been banned in Thailand related to the law.

ThaiRoyalStandardThe Thai royal standard (from here). What standards apply to the royal family?

But in fact Thailand is not entirely unique in this respect. Most European remnant monarchies have lèse-majesté laws themselves. There the application of the law is different of course and based on recent practice mostly obscene and pointless statements about the royals would get you into trouble. That is less of an anomaly perhaps as it is not entirely out of line with anti-defamation practice. (Although I’m open to the argument that even such a restriction may be viewed as problematic from a democratic standpoint.)

All quiet in the House of Saud?

by fpman

Gerald Butt, writing for the BBC, is warning us (in my words from here) that the situation past peak production of oil is not the only concern we should have related to Saudi Arabia: being past peak production of the “Sudairi sons” may be similarly concerning, prospectively. The Sudairi sons, or the “Sudairi Seven” are seven sons of the late Saudi king Ibn Saud from Hassa al-Sudairi, a favourite among the late king’s many wives. Currently this line of the family provides the oil kingdom with its succession of rulers.

Below is the relevant part of the family tree from Butt’s article, also giving you suggestions as to who in the next generation could follow once Abdullah, Salman and Muqrin will no longer be there.

Now, we don’t have to have a PhD in Gender Studies to be able to tell that there’s something wrong with how the family tree is visualised there. And no, it’s not that it is indicated that King Ibn Saud had “approximately” forty-five sons even though that indicates some potentially interesting things, too. On a more superficial level, the obvious problem is that women apparently are not supposed to belong in a scheme of this kind. It’s just the men who are shown. Hassa al-Sudairi has done her service as the mother of seven royal heirs but that doesn’t earn her a place there.

SaudiRoyalLineageAn overview of le royal with ease

At the risk of saying “at the risk of stating the obvious,” we may add that the absence of women is of course reflective of the general understanding of the role of women in Saudi Arabia. It is the men who deal with the important problems, such as that of which of them should take the throne. Back to Butt’s article:

“A meeting of the Allegiance Council, a body consisting of sons and grandsons of Ibn Saud to resolve succession issues, was held in March 2014 and endorsed King Abdullah’s elevation of Prince Muqrin – with the proviso that this appointment could not be overturned.”

At the end of the day, however, I don’t actually have to have a PhD in Geopolitical Studies to be able to tell you that this of course is not necessarily the foremost concern from the point of view of the world economy right now, and that in fact a succession of well-educated royal heirs to the throne may be much better in this respect than a bunch of AK-wielding shura members electing their caliphs (opportunity cost, damn it).