Thailand's Struggle for Democracy: The Life and Times of M. R. Seni Pramoj

By David van Praagh | Go to book overview

Foreword
Stephen Solarz

When most Americans think of Thailand what come to mind are images of beautiful beaches, magnificent skills, an exotic culture, and a spicy cuisine. Westerners with any sense of Thai history are likely to associate it with the Siamese ruler and his British tutor made famous by the exuberant Yul Brynner in The King and I. Should they be slightly more knowledgeable, and somewhat more cynical, they may also identify it as a country whose most populous city, Bangkok, is beset by the worst traffic jams in the world and has a well-deserved reputation as the sex capital of Asia.

But one thing they are not likely to contemplate, let alone to understand, is the political history of modern Thailand. Even for those with a modest interest in the subject, the Thai political scene tends to be confusing at best and impenetrable at worst. As generals replace politicians and are themselves replaced by other generals, with unpronounceable names making them as forgettable as they are unimpressive, it is difficult for the distant and occasional observer to make much sense of the game of military musical chairs that has characterized Thai politics for much of the last half-century.

This is unfortunate because Thailand is a country that needs and deserves to be better understood than it has been by all but a handful of academics and diplomats. That is why Thailand's Struggle for Democracy by David Van Praagh is such a welcome addition to the literature on Southeast Asia. Cast in the form of a biography of a great Thai democrat, Van Praagh's account of the life and times of M.R. Seni Pramoj is not only a fascinating story of one man's struggle to plant the principles of democracy and due process in the volatile political soil of the country he loves, but also a veritable Rosetta Stone of Thailand, providing the reader with a road map and driver for safe passage through the tortuous terrain of Thai personalities and politics.

-ix-

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Thailand's Struggle for Democracy: The Life and Times of M. R. Seni Pramoj
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Thailand's Struggle for Democracy - The Life and Times of M.R. Seni Pramoj *
  • Contents *
  • Foreword Stephen Solarz ix
  • Preface xvii
  • Introduction Finding Democracy in Asia 1
  • 1: An Extraordinary Democrat 22
  • 2: The Development of a Nonconformist 30
  • 3: The Undelivered Declaration of War 46
  • 4: Standing Firm Against the British 63
  • 5: Opposing Dictatorship 101
  • 6: The Student Revolution 133
  • 7: Betrayal of a Reborn Dream 165
  • 8: The Dead Hand of the Past 197
  • 9: The Struggle Renewed 222
  • 10: A People United 252
  • 11: Facing Economic and External Pressures 297
  • 12: Alone on the Sharp Edge 316
  • Bibliographical Note 330
  • Chronology 333
  • Index 345
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