Benedict Anderson has a guest post at the Midnight University website. PPT thought this quote accurate and pointed on Thailand (and the rest of Southeast Asia):
… Kasian Tejapira, one of the very best students I ever had, has been describing the present system as a ‘semi-democracy.’ This is the commonest way that outsiders tend to describe the political orders of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia. But in my opinion all these states, including Siam, are actually controlled, to varying extents, by oligarchies, clusters of interlocking families, whose children go to the same schools, whose businesses are interconnected, who marry among themselves, and share a common set of values and interests. This does not mean that they do not compete among themselves, sometimes fiercely. Nor are they entirely exclusionary; they are flexible enough to assimilate various kinds of semi-outsiders, but on their own terms. They even have a kind of code of conduct – one element of which is not to use sexual scandals against each other. A good sign of oligarchy is the absence of a coherent, well-managed opposition; another is the easy and rapid movement of sor-sor between so-called parties as shifting governing coalitions get formed.
PPT would call this a ruling class. Red shirts might think of amart.
There’s more worth reading in the piece, including some side-swipes at the monarchy.