Reporters on the Job

Read on Royalty: Correspondent Simon Montlake notes that open discussion of the role of the monarchy in Thailand is rare (see story). But the protests against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have opened up an unusual debate about how the revered royal family fits into a constitutional democracy.

Much of what's happened has involved a certain amount of reading tea leaves, says Simon, with people who are trusted advisers to the king making broad statements about dialogue and compromise.

But two weeks ago, the Sunday evening news broadcasts were much more direct. "They ran the famous 1992 footage of the king bringing together the military premier of the time and the leader of protesters who had been killed during demonstrations against military rule," Simon says. "In the scene, the two men crawled on their knees toward the king, as is the custom, and the monarch scolded them, telling them they had to find a way forward. It was a pivotal moment - and the last time the king publicly intervened in affairs of government."

The recent rebroadcast of the event was at the behest of the palace. "It was a fascinating example of the power of the monarchy," Simon says, "and has been interpreted as indicating to Thais that the country should not go down this road again."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural Snapshot

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