The return of Premocracy

7 08 2014

We perused a recent story at The Nation with considerable interest. Our interest came from a congruence between the story and several posts at PPT that asserted a return to Premocracy.

It began with the clearest of statements “the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [that’s the junta] is not building a foundation for democracy in Thailand as it claims…”.

That’s the way of military dictatorships.

The author, Supalak Ganjanakhundee, reckons that the junta is actually “returning ‘bureaucratic polity’ to the country.” Supalak admits that this concept has been defined in different ways, which is certainly true.

Fred W. Riggs developed the theory as a part of his model of prismatic societies in the early 1950s. He applied it to Thailand in the 1960s. but most of those who use the term in the Thailand context ignore the theory and use the term as a descriptive category.

Supalak is right to observe that this descriptive use “simply means the country is reigned, ruled and run by the bureaucracy. Under this system, military is best, civil servant is good and politician is worst.” This leads to the observation that:

The junta chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, worked to prove that the country could be run by a bureaucracy alone during the two months after he staged the coup on May 22 to topple an elected government. The coup in theory has cut the linkage among people, politicians and political institutions. The country has had no government since then, but all of the state apparatus is functioning under the guidance of the military junta.

While we disagree that “democracy in Thailand contains only forms of elections,”  it is true that “[p]olitics in Thailand simply means power-sharing among the elite.”

We disagree on elections because this ignores the second statement. It is the royalist elite that wants democracy weak, it is it this elite that has stymied each effort to expand democracy because it challenges its political and economic power. This is why:

In Thailand’s long political history, it has enjoyed only short periods of democracy, with elected governments running the country with a full mandate from voters…. The country later was run by military regimes and quasi-democracies under a dominant military between 1976 and 1988.

King-Queen-PremSupalak is correct to identify the significance of the “quasi-democratic regime under General Prem Tinsulanonda between 1980 and 1988” as the military’s and royalist elite’s current “model that would be suitable for Thailand forever.” Of Premocracy, Supalak states:

The Prem regime is the role model for many elite political architects. He is a former Army commander who was “invited” by political parties and elected politicians to take the premiership after elections during the 1980s. To that extent, political parties and politicians were only minor parts of the arrangement. They were furniture, rather than the structure of the country’s administration.

Thailand was then mostly run by military officers and bureaucrats. The prime minister had no accountability to the people. His power was supported by the military. Prem faced challenges from young officers and two coup attempts, rather than lawmakers in the House of Representatives. He never gave a damn about the politicians in Parliament. They would create no trouble for his government as long as they were allowed to join the Cabinet.

The 2014 coup, then, can be “regarded as the second attempt to complete the mission for restoration of a bureaucratic regime since the previous coup in 2006 failed to weaken politicians, notably in Thaksin’s camp, and their political institutions.”Prayuth planking

The junta is working hard on the “new constitution could be foreseen as a conservative one, less democratic, giving less power to politicians but more power to the military and bureaucracy to lay a strong foundation for the return of bureaucratic polity.” That is, Prayuth is doing the work of the palace, just as Prem did in the 1980s.


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10 responses

9 08 2014
More fanatical monarchism | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] is remarkably weak in identifying military authoritarianism for what it is: a dictatorship. Thailand’s military dictatorship is winding back to a Premocracy, denying democracy, and cementing the foundations of the royalist […]

16 08 2014
Prem’s economic model | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] dictatorship draws on the periods when General Sarit Thanarat was dictator and then a period when General Prem Tinsulanonda was unelected prime minister and palace favorite. The economic model for the junta looks increasingly like the Prem […]

16 08 2014
Prem’s economic model | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] dictatorship draws on the periods when General Sarit Thanarat was dictator and then a period when General Prem Tinsulanonda was unelected prime minister and palace favorite. The economic model for the junta looks increasingly like the Prem […]

17 10 2014
Prem and The Dictator | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] In addition, the military dictatorship continues to honor the old man and fight his political battles for him, which includes settling old scores. The “model” being used by The Dictator and his cabal of royalists harks back to the Prem era of unelected governments running a country where parliament was a relatively insignificant sideshow. We wrote of the return to Premocracy. […]

27 12 2014
Tumbling down the hill | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] has always been the preferred one for the military dictatorship and its anti-democrat supporters. As PPT has long pointed out, a non-elected premier is the Prem-era option that promises military control of politics for years […]

27 12 2014
Tumbling down the hill | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] has always been the preferred one for the military dictatorship and its anti-democrat supporters. As PPT has long pointed out, a non-elected premier is the Prem-era option that promises military control of politics for years […]

29 12 2014
Prem proud of military coup | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] PPT understands that Prem is careful in including himself in this statement of support and collective collusion in the restoration of “Premocracy“: […]

29 12 2014
Prem proud of military coup | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] PPT understands that Prem is careful in including himself in this statement of support and collective collusion in the restoration of “Premocracy“: […]

22 09 2015
Deep problems, no solutions | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] What is clear is that political reform is off the agenda unless that means going back to the 1980s and Premocracy-like military tutelage. […]

22 09 2015
Deep problems, no solutions | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] What is clear is that political reform is off the agenda unless that means going back to the 1980s and Premocracy-like military tutelage. […]




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