Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 05:01 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 05:01 | SYDNEY

Thai FM resignation: Has the king had enough?

4 September 2008 15:54

Yesterday's announcement that Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag has resigned is an important development in the confrontation between Thailand's elected government and a disparate group of opponents united under the title of the People's Alliance for Democracy.

Historian, diplomat and a member of the prominent Bunnag family that has played a role in Thai politics over many decades dating back to the nineteenth century, Tej Bunnag rose to be permanent head of the Thai Foreign Service before moving on to be one of King Bhumibol's closest advisers.

Unexpectedly, he was seconded from his position in the royal court to become foreign minister at the beginning of August at a time when relations between Thailand and Cambodia were deteriorating because of a dispute over territory associated with the Angkorian-period temple of Preah Vihear, a temple for which Cambodia was awarded sovereignty by a decision of the ICJ in 1962, but which is located at the edge of an escarpment that otherwise falls within Thai jurisdiction.

It's reasonable to suppose that Bunnag's appointment had the backing of the king, and it seems that Bunnag played an important part in lowering the temperature of the dispute between the two countries in meetings with the Cambodian foreign minister, Hor Namhong. But he has now resigned 'for personal reasons' associated  with his wife's health and it is impossible to believe that he would have done so without the approval of the palace.

Bunnag's resignation shows that Prime Minister Sama Sundaravej's tenure has become increasingly shaky, as the army is showing little inclination to enforce the state of emergency the prime minister has sought to impose. For his departure has all the elements of a signal that the king wants a rapid end to the uncertainty that grips Thailand.

Photo of Bangkok protests by flickr user johnjan99ca, used under a Creative Commons license.