The sudden announcement, reported by Elliot Brennan on The Interpreter on Tuesday, that relatives of the Thai Crown Prince's third wife have been stripped of their royally-conferred honorific titles because of links to a corruption scandal raises yet again the problem for outsiders of commenting on a vital aspect of contemporary Thai politics: the role of the Thai monarch and the royal family.
Despite the fact that this development will be hotly discussed at all levels of Thai society, local press coverage has essentially been limited to factual reporting, as Elliot indicated.
So while it may possible, both in Thailand and elsewhere, to suggest that this development has significance for the the issue of succession to King Bhumibol, even this is to risk prosecution under Thailand's draconian lese-majeste legal provisions, which have been applied to foreigners as well as to Thai citizens, including Australian Harry Nicolaides for his alleged criticism of Prince Vajiralongkorn in a self-published novel.
So what options are open to any interested but non-specialist observer who would like to know more about the significance of these developments?
First stop, not least for Australians, is New Mandala, the online publication established in 2006 by Professor Andrew Walker and Dr Nicholas Farrelly and hosted by the ANU's College of Asia and the Pacific. Both Andrew and Nicholas have long-established credentials as Thai studies specialists.
Providing regular coverage of Thai politics, New Mandela is host to courageous commentators who are prepared to risk their access to Thailand by offering frank and fearless analysis. Nowhere is this more true than in two contributions that bear directly on the latest developments in Thailand: these extended commentaries by Patrick Jory and Lee Jones on Andrew MacGregor Marshall's new book, A Kingdom in Crisis.
It goes without saying that A Kingdom in Crisis will never be on sale in Thailand, as the author has long been identified by Thai authorities as an unacceptable critic of the Thai establishment. Also guaranteed not to be available in Thailand's bookshops is Paul Handley's 2006 The King Never Smiles. Citing these two books is not necessarily an endorsement of all they say. For instance, the distinguished Australian scholar Grant Evans, who died recently, offered a critical view of much that was in Handley's book.
Alongside these important contributions, mention must also be made of British academic Duncan McCargo's article, 'Network Monarchy and Legitimacy Crises in Thailand,' published in 2005, seen by many as a template for understanding Thai politics.
More generally, the background against which contemporary Thai politics are unfolding is helpfully covered in Good Coup Gone Bad: Thailand's Political Developments since Thaksin's Downfall, edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. It is notable that the editor has had his Thai passport withdrawn by the military regime that took power in May for his critical views on this development. The product of a symposium held under the auspices of the Singapore Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in 2012, the book has immediate relevance to the current Thai political scene.
In his foreword to Good Coup Gone Bad, the noted ANU-based historian of Thailand, Craig Reynolds, writes: 'Even at the best of times Thai politics has not been easy to understand, and now, late in the reign of a revered and activist monarch, it is even more difficult to comprehend.' So the suggested sources offered here are only a start towards understanding an extraordinarily complex subject.