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

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

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

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

Synopsis

"Former prime minister of Thailand, great-grandson of a Siamese king, and twentieth-century Renaissance man, Seni Pramoj was also the Thai envoy in Washington, D. C. in December 1941 - just after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor - who refused, in direct defiance of orders from the Bangkok regime, to declare war on the United States. This political biography portrays one of the world's most fascinating statesmen and depicts Thailand as a nation at war with itself as David Van Praagh traces the history of the country's often thwarted attempts to become increasingly democratic - from the 1930s until after the shocking clashes of May 1992 in the streets of Bangkok between the military and the middle class. Van Praagh also incisively compares other Southeast Asian countries' experiences with democratization and analyzes the implications for Western foreign policy. In addition to presenting the portrait of an extraordinary aristocrat who pointed the way to a rare democratic triumph in Asia, this informed account involves royal figures, corrupt generals, avowed democrats unable to agree on what democracy means, foreign intrigues and Westerners such as Franklin Roosevelt, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and Harry Truman. Never having been colonized by a Western power and long neglected by Western journalists and historians Thailand offers a unique, often surprising history." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

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.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.