My dear Kacvey,

Please do not be alarmed by the title of this letter; it has nothing to do with the classic “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” 三国演义 with states of Wei 魏, Shu 漢 and Wu 吳, nor with Liu Bei 刘备, Cao Cao 曹操, Zhu Geliang 诸葛亮, Zhang Fei 张飞 or Guan Yu 关羽 etc… It is rather about the three kingdoms in current Southeast Asia, and on the way how each suzerain, in dealing with or governing his people, is seen in contemporary time through media.

Numerous articles have been written about the suzerains of these three kingdoms that you and your students could easily find in google for expansive information. However only 3 articles have been chosen as a base for discussion in this letter.

Malaysia
Reuters, 25 October 2020
Malaysia’s king rejects emergency rule in blow to PM Muhyiddin

Thailand
The New York Times, 18 November 2020
‘Now, We Fight Face to Face’: Thailand’s Protests Shatter Taboos
Reuters, 18 December 2020
The last taboo

Cambodia
Radio Free Asia, 21 October 2020
ឧត្ដម​ទីប្រឹក្សា​ផ្ទាល់​នៃ​ព្រះមហាក្សត្រ ថ្លែង​ថា ព្រះរាជា​បច្ចុប្បន្ន ដូច​ជាប់​ឃុំ​ក្នុង​វាំង ព្រោះ​ស្ថាប័ន​រដ្ឋាភិបាល
Radio Free Asia, 30 October 2020
“រដ្ឋាភិបាល​មិន​បាន​គាំទ្រ​ព្រះមហាក្សត្រ​បំពេញ​ព្រះរាជ តួនាទី​ពេញលេញ​តាម​រដ្ឋធម្មនុញ្ញ”

Your students should be suggested to conduct a comparative study on the difference in way the suzerains reign over and rule their subjects. Today’s news from Sweden could give some impetus to the thinking when the Swedish monarch, as reported in Business Insider, openly said: “I think we have failed. We have a large number who have died, and that is terrible

This brings us to recall 1) what the Proverbs of Solomon said: “In the multitude of people is the king’s honor; but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince”, and 2) what Bhumibol Adulyadej, king of Thailand, once said about himself: “I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the King cannot be criticized, it means that the King is not human.”

Please let us know when they complete their homework!

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Update:

1. Asia Times, 12 January 2021
Does Cambodia have a ‘puppet king’?