Institutional Incentives and Informal Local Political Groups (Phuak) in Thailand: Comments on Allen Hicken and Paul Chambers

By Nelson, Michael H. | Journal of East Asian Studies, January-April 2007 | Go to article overview

Institutional Incentives and Informal Local Political Groups (Phuak) in Thailand: Comments on Allen Hicken and Paul Chambers


Nelson, Michael H., Journal of East Asian Studies


Post-1997 Thai politics have been shaped by the effects of two momentous events that occurred almost at the same time: the introduction of far-reaching structural changes by the 1997 constitution, and the appearance of a singularly overbearing and centralizing political leader--Thaksin Shinawatra. To political analysts, this situation has provided uniquely rich opportunities to observe over a number of years whether constitutional engineering had the envisaged effect of restricting the politicians' "undesirable" actions, and whether the intended institutional change was realized. However, the coincidence of constitutional change and the occurrence of Thaksin has also made it necessary to distinguish the effects of structural changes from the effects of the new form of political leadership.

One of the main issues during the political reform process was the desire to make Thailand's governmental system more stable and efficient. A core intention thus was to increase the leadership capability of the prime minister by making his decisions sufficiently independent from his own political party, his coalition partners, and the House of Representatives. This view was expressed in the final report and recommendations of the Democracy Development Committee in April 1995, and it was mirrored by a statement in the "Basic Framework for Drafting the People's Constitution," distributed countrywide for public hearings by the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) in March 1997. (1) This document in particular said that although the prime minister had the legal powers, "he cannot show his leadership in governing the country" because he was under the control of his own party and his coalition partners. (2)

Given this approach, one would assume that Thaksin might have fulfilled the dreams of many who were involved in the political reform and constitution drafting processes. Indeed, important reform advocates initially perceived him in this light. In March 2002, Prawase Wasi, chairperson of the Democracy Development Committee, praised him for having strong leadership potential, albeit with concerns about his attempts to muzzle the mass media. Four years on, however, many of Thaksin's erstwhile admirers, including Prawase, had moved to the camp of his fervent enemies.

Many mainstream academic accounts center on the person of Thaksin. (3) He has been unrivaled in Thailand in his sheer political energy, determination, vision, professionalism, ruthlessness, and network-building capacity, not to mention the incredible financial resources at his personal disposal. Following his success at building the telecommunication company Shin Corp, Thaksin went on to create a juggernaut political party that, based on overwhelming voter support brought about by "populist policies," formed the first single-party government in Thai political history. Until the protests that started in September 2005, he seemed set easily to dominate Thai politics for many years to come, subjugating the constitutional order to his personal need for the centralization of power, if not for more sinister purposes.

As a result, important political actors as well as the dominant public discourse had attributed all problems solely to Thaksin's actions, and thus they saw only one single solution: his removal--from the position of prime minister, from politics, from the country. Most observers probably agreed with the statement of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the chairperson of the Democrat Party, that Thaksin Shinawatra had outgrown Thailand's political and constitutional system. The coup d'etat of September 19, 2006, has, at least temporarily, removed Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai Party, and thus relieved the pressure they had put on the political order. A new round of constitutional reform will aim at blocking people such as Thaksin from gaining power or preventing them from using it inappropriately. However, the present discourses on the "morality" of political leaders and popular democratization indicate the understanding that legal provisions will always be insufficient in completely excluding opportunist and authoritarian political inclinations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Institutional Incentives and Informal Local Political Groups (Phuak) in Thailand: Comments on Allen Hicken and Paul Chambers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.