Political Change in Thailand: Democracy and Participation

Political Change in Thailand: Democracy and Participation

Political Change in Thailand: Democracy and Participation

Political Change in Thailand: Democracy and Participation

Synopsis

This book provides an assessment of approaches to studying Thai politics, the various forces reshaping the forms of political activity and their roles in the fluid contemporary political environment.

Excerpt

Thailand, of all the countries of Southeast Asia, readily attracts simplistic conventional wisdoms about the traditional nature of its society and its degree of institutional continuity. The reasons for such generalisations are well known. Thailand is the only regional state to have escaped direct colonial rule and its disruptive effect on national institutions. Although an absolute monarchy was replaced by a constitutional version over six decades ago, that institution, through the role of an incumbent with over 50 years tenure, has been seen as a dominant symbol of national identity and values. In addition, the Buddhist faith has provided another strong strain of tradition and continuity among a relatively homogenous population. Thailand has not stood still, however. For example, the role of monarchy itself has changed significantly during the period of constitutional limitation. Ironically, its role was enhanced from the late 1950s by a military dictatorship which also set the country on the path of modern economic development. That development has been spectacular in recent decades with the acceleration of globalisation, bringing in its train domestic social changes with notable political effects which makes it necessary to reconsider established views of the nature of the Thai political order.

This innovative set of essays, which is edited and introduced by Kevin Hewison, addresses the changing political landscape of Thailand at the end of the twentieth century. The chapters comprise, in the main, the revised outcome of papers presented at a workshop at the Asia Research Centre of Murdoch University around the theme of changing patterns of power and democratic development. That workshop took place in the wake of turbulent and bloody events in Bangkok in May 1992 which serve as a historical reference point of a kind, to the extent that they were the prelude to a restoration of democratic rule. The essays provide a remarkably comprehensive view of Thai political life. They cover its entire spectrum and direct special attention to what one Thai contributor has described as 'new centres of influence vying for increasing access to power'. Moreover, a notable feature of these essays is that almost half of the contributors are Thai scholars whose own researches provide considerable intellectual enrichment to this joint enterprise. This volume stands at

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