Oath-taking and the monarchy

By Patipat Kittichokwattana

After the long period of government formation, prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha and his cabinet finally sworn in before His Majesty the King on July 16, 2019. Several weeks later, the complaint was submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman alleges that the Prime Minister and his cabinet fail to recite the entire oath required by section 161 of the constitution. The incomplete oath-taking was questioned to the validity of the government. Following, the petition was lodged to the constitutional court.

Public discussions arose. They compare to the former US president, Barack Obama, who misplacing only one word in the oath-taking of his first inauguration. At that moment, constitutional scholars suggested him to retake the oath because the proper wording is prescribed in the constitution. Although the White House insisted the oath was administered appropriately, the second swear-in ceremony finally took place on the following day at the White House before a small group of audience and reporters.

Nevertheless, prime minister Prayut kept quiet and unlikely to retake the swear-in ceremony. Until September 11, 2019, the Thai Constitutional Court unanimously rejected the petition and explained that the oath-taking related to a “specific relationship” between the king and the cabinet. This relationship is concerned a political issue in which beyond the jurisdiction of the court or any agencies under the constitution to examine. Furthermore, the king responded by speech and written message urging to carry out the duties respecting their oath were considered as the complete oath of office.

The prime minister said that he would take full responsibility concerning the oath and reassured that the government would function as normal. But the opposition parties claimed that the constitutional court did not accept the petition for consideration and, essentially, has not ruled an alleged incomplete oath-taking. Therefore, the parliament can proceed with the debate on whether the oath complied with the constitution, whether the government’s actions are legitimate, and how and who should take a political responsibility for the incomplete oath.

Most of us perceive that Thailand adopts the constitutional monarchy in which the existence of the King is allowed by the constitution, the limited monarchy. The King exercises such powers through the parliament, the government, and the court. However, it’s found that the King can sometimes exercise his power and give advice to the government directly. Some important activity either in politics or business domain needs to show strong support from the monarch to make further progress. That apparently outside the limit of constitutional monarchy.

Scholar recognizes the immense roles of the monarchy in Thai context and argues that the existing constitutional monarchy approach is insufficient to determine characteristics of Thai monarchy. Duncan McCargo stipulated the “Network Monarchy” in which the King has high degree of relative autonomy by the support of informal network of elites especially the Privy Council and military. Eugénie Mérieau identified the “Deep State” to reflects a state within the state. It composed of state agents such as military, police, and judiciary which seek to maintain and strengthen the roles and status of monarchy.

Mérieau indicates that the judiciary is a part of the Deep State’s self-interest hegemonic preservation strategy. They are pro-active agents that allow the Deep State to control over the civilian state. Flashback to the political deadlock on 2006, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) called for the King intervention to resolve the crisis. The King refused and pointed toward the Court’ s responsibility. Following, April 25, the King delivered the speech to the judges of the Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court urged them to keep the oath they sworn in. A few day later, the Constitutional Court’s ruled the petition that considerably follow the Deep State’s interest.

It sounds like a secret group that is organized to protect the world. But does it really exist or just the political bias that connect an event with other (ir)relevant events to make their political position more attractive. This will be discussed next. (To be continued….)

[Photo Credit: thaipbsworld.com]

Patipat Kittichokwattana, a PaddyNews writer


McCargo, D. (2005). Network monarchy and legitimacy crises in Thailand. Pacific Review, 18(4), 499-519.

Mérieau, E. (2016). Thailand’s deep state, royal wower and the constitutional court (1997–2015). Journal of Contemporary Asia, 46(3), 445-466.