ISBN: 9788776940720

Saying the Unsayable: Monarchy and Democracy in Thailand


Edited by Søren Ivarsson and Lotte Isager

2010, 281 pp. (x+271) paperback, 15x23 cm

The Thai monarchy today is usually presented as both guardian of tradition and the institution to bring modernity and progress to the Thai people. It is moreover seen as protector of the nation. Scrutinizing that image, this volume reviews the fascinating history of the modern monarchy. It also analyses important cultural, historical, political, religious, and legal forces shaping the popular image of the monarchy and, in particular, of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In this manner, the book offers valuable insights into the relationships between monarchy, religion and democracy in Thailand—topics that, after the September 2006 coup d’état, gained renewed national and international interest. By addressing such contentious issues as Thai‐style democracy, lése majesté legislation, religious symbolism and politics, monarchical traditions, and the royal sufficiency economy, this volume will be of interest to a broad spectrum of academics, journalists and other interested readers outside academia.

What others are saying

“Half way through this book, one of the contributors asks, ‘Is Thailand primarily a democracy protected by a constitution that guarantees rights, or is it primarily a monarchy with authoritarian structures that prevent democratisation?’ Not so long ago, such a question was unimaginable . . . The eleven contributors to this book of essays include seven foreigners and four Thais. Two of the Thais have elected to use a nom de plume. Yet this is a careful book which has nothing personal or strident, no whiff of revolt. The nine essays and the deft summary in the introduction present analyses of the meaning of the Thai monarchy in the present and the recent past . . . As the editors note in the introduction, a monarchy like any other institution is constantly being made and remade. The immense changes over the present reign make that abundantly clear. This book is a valuable contribution to a growing literature that helps to make this institution and its complex dynamics more understandable.”—Chris Baker, Bangkok Post

Saying the Unsayable: Monarchy and Democracy in Thailand, edited by Søren Ivarsson and Lotte Isager, is the first edited volume of essays in English devoted entirely to critically examining Thailand’s monarchy and the problem it poses to democratisation. . . Given the dearth of critical scholarship on the monarchy there is much in the volume that will interest readers.” —Patrick Jory (University of Queensland), Contemporary Southeast Asia


  • Explains a unique, multidisciplinary discussion of the cultural, historical, political, religious and legal forces that formed the Thai monarchy
  • Provides essential reading for anyone interested in Thai politics and culture
  • Of interest to a broad readership, also outside academia

About the Editor

Søren Ivarsson is an associate professor in the Department of History, University of Copenhagen. Well versed in the histories of Laos and Thailand, he is particularly interested in nationalism, state formation and historiography in these countries. His monograph, Creating Laos, was published by NIAS Press in 2008 and has attracted much acclaim.

Lotte Isager is an anthropologist and geographer working at the University of Copenhagen. Her primary research interests are environmental management, agrarian change, governance and identity politics in Southeast Asia and East Africa.


Thailand | monarchy | politics | culture

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