Academic journal article SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia

Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power

Academic journal article SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia

Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power

Article excerpt

Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power. Edited by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker. Singapore: NUS Press, 2016. xv+186 pp.

Unequal Thailand is the newest volume of research to be compiled by the husband and wife team of Baker and Pasuk, the latter a professor of economics at Chulalongkorn University and the former a public intellectual of some note who has written widely on contemporary Thai history and politics. The two have edited an excellent and informative book that focuses on many of the issues that underlie Thailand's current political crises. The editors have brought together painstakingly executed and well-written papers that examine different aspects of inequality of income, wealth, power and knowledge. Taken together, these papers provide a reader with a very clear understanding of what might be done to move Thailand out of it current depressing morass of political disenfranchisement and societal mistrust. Any scholar of the region or the country will find at least several of these chapters of interest, whether her or his own focus is economic, political or sociological.

Most of the contributors to the volume are relatively young scholars working in Thailand. This may account for the wealth of knowledge about how the country works as well as the excellent quality of the data used in the majority of the chapters. This generally high quality of data and analysis is impressive, in that many of the authors rely on information that I, for one, was unaware was available in Thailand. The authors often allude to the fact that the data on which they are relying come from sources which have not previously been exploited or which in some cases have been specifically created for the purposes of analysing inequality in the country.

One chapter, for example, is the first paper ever to explore the concentration of land ownership on a national scale by using new data from the country's Socio-Economic Survey and recently computerized titled landholding information from the Land Department of Thailand. Duangmanee Laovakul, an assistant professor of Economics at Thammasat University, uses these data to argue persuasively that wealth, even more than income, is highly concentrated in Thailand and that it is concentrated in ways that explain even further the sense of unfairness that underlies the differences between political factions within the country.

The chapter that I found most illuminating was written by Ukrist Pathmanand, a research professor at the Institute of Asian Studies at Chulalongkorn University, and entitled "Network Thaksin". …

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