Buddhist salvation and the
Edoardo Siani

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.

in Political theologies and development in Asia