Embodying the late King
Buddhist salvation and the
in Political theologies and development in Asia
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This chapter applies theories on political theology of sovereignty to contemporary Buddhist Thailand. Based on ethnographic data collected in 2016 in Bangkok, it analyses how a public relations campaign helped legitimise the mandate of the military junta after the passing of King Bhumibol and in the face of pressing calls for popular sovereignty. Organised at a luxury shopping mall, the campaign contained the emergence of a political theology of the people by celebrating the late monarch, venerated for his work in development, as a celestial being. Via astute cosmological framing, the campaign then proposed a new celestial-cum-social political order. It thus subordinated the people to the junta, suggesting the military’s suitability to embody the king’s celestial legacy in a period of transition.