Monarchy prospered in five South-East Asian nations, mixing pre-colonial monarchy patterns with new institutional styles. The heads of state are Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia, with Indonesia unique forms of monarchy that thrive at the regional level in a republican sense. Such two monarchical practices, one ancient and the other new coexist uncomfortably, particularly in difficult times, whether due to succession or unstable political circumstances.
The conclusion of Southeast Asia's colonial period was primarily marked by the introduction of a new statehood formed by the democracy of the outgoing social leaders. Due to political changes, Thailand was never colonized, nor did its monarchy modernize, introduced modes of government that restricted its control. The nine traditional leaders of the Malay states who form the nucleus of the new Malaysian Federation were consecrated as keepers of the Malay tradition. One of the numbers acts as the King of Malaysia and Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, who in 1953 led his country independent from France, was a conventional dictator and a new nationalist, before giving up the political practice. Likewise, the Yogyakarta sultan supported in setting up the Indonesian republic, acting as the vice president for a specific time, and maintaining his rule as a separate administrative region now ruled by his son and heir.
In either case, surviving South-East Asian monarchies have power and authority that surpass those defined in constitutional terms either theoretically or in fact. The persistence of the ancient religious and cultural symbols that monarchy itself smartly perpetuated, as well as the influence that derives from their great wealth, has contributed to this phase.
Thailand is possibly the most famous ruler, with the 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej becoming not only the oldest King in the world but also the exalted status of his people, which include an extreme penalty for monarchy criticism.
When the throne was reclaimed in 1946, Bhumibol reinvented the monarchy as the center of the Thai state under the shadow of his brother Ananda Mahidol's mysterious death and extended its reach to include large sectors in the nation's culture and construction infrastructure.
Robust networks of authority and patronage developed alongside the palace's strength. The military built a strong base around the palace defense, and it became a significant source of wealth and expenditure for the Crown Property Bureau. All this rendered the Thai monarchy the largest and most influential institution in the world in the 1980s.
Therefore, the King became an arbiter and went off the war as leaders opposed one another or military forces. After days of violent protests that had seen troops burning on the campus, Bhumibol was shown on television, encouraging the military to reconcile with civic powers. Bhumibol used annual public addresses near in later years to counsel his subjects on questions of law and democracy.
The current Thai political struggles are seen as pitting the court-conserving coalition against a populist movement headed by politicians connected to leftist movements opposed by the palace and brutally crushed by the army in the 1970s. The monarch was ill and out of the public life, and the monarchy continued by his successors.
The potential demise of the spectacularly long and effective regime in Bhumibol has contributed to turmoil in Thai culture. Since May 2014, it has prolonged the rule of a dictatorship headed by the military. Also, if there are polls as expected in 2016, under a new constitution, the military is going to test the levers of control. The concern of the elite focuses on the immediate consequences of succession, which will inevitably lead to the reorganization of the relationship of power around the castle.
The kings of Malaysia were still drawn into late diplomacy. The monarchy is seen as the culmination of the ultimate institution and imbibed with the role of arbitrator in the periods of any political conflict. The Malay government is, theoretically, beyond politics but, through the Conference of Rulers, takes a small part in political issues.
This body's critical task is to elect the Yang di-Pertuan Agong every five years but, in terms of rights and privileges, it has a place in the Constitution too. Premier Najib Razak was involved in a financial scam, and the government had raised their silent worry about the prosperity and stability of the nation.
The need to maintain harmony was discussed at the Rulers conference in the middle of 2015 when Perak's revered and influential sultan, Nazrin Shah, also talked about the need to foster a culture of equality in Islam and accept differences of opinion in the interests of unity. However, the recent comments by some leaders have shocked several, as they have included the suggestion of views shared through social media, which challenges whether Malaysia's leaders will remain above politics in the face of a political crisis.
In August of 2015, the prime minister was informed by the public declaration from Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar that the value of the currency should be granted further importance, which has plumbed 18 years' lower cost. Johor's youthful crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim made greater use of social media to raise questions about the present Ma condition. When tens of thousands assembled at the end of August to oppose the government in downtown Kuala Lumpur, banners were shown citing the speech by Johor Sultan. Ironically, the standard color of the Malay monarchy is the yellow selected by the protesters of Bersih, a rational and smart election campaign.
It is difficult to conclude in the current context that the monarchy is a weak player on the political spectrum of Southeastern Asia. However, defensive influence and patronage are streaming from the pinnacle of South-east Asia's communities, and monarchs may do nothing to avoid the management of their control without jeopardizing their chances for survival, whether virtual or above ground. The more the deception is successful, the more the throne becomes sullied.
Jun 30, 2020