On Dec. 1, I was invited by Yale University to give a lecture on the topic "From Bhumibol to Vajiralongkorn: The Neo-Royalism Ideology and the Future of the Thai Monarchy." Toward the end of my lecture, two hyper-royalists, a middle-aged Thai man and woman, stood up and interrupted my talk. The man cursed at me, calling me a "son of a bitch." He said that my lecture was "full of s—-" and that I was not Thai.

In many ways, the heckling at Yale symbolized the deep political crisis in Thailand, which has centered on the position of the monarchy at the twilight of what is seen as the magical reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The man and woman could have argued that they were protecting the dignity of the king. But at the same time, their action also exposed their sense of anxiety about the future of the monarchy without the charismatic king — and indeed the future of Thailand.

Emerging from that context, it seems evident that the crux of the current Thai political crisis is straightforward: The military staged a coup on May 22, 2014, mainly to take control of the upcoming royal succession. This important event will determine the future of Thailand. The military, during this transitional period, has continued to exploit the revered institution, not only to defend the political interest of the monarchy but that of its own.