Wheel of crisis in Thailand

23 09 2014

PPT was sent a link to an online set of papers on Thailand in Cultural Anthropology. The special is edited by by Ben Tausig, Claudio Sopranzetti, Felicity Aulino and Eli Elinoff.

For decades, Thailand has been entangled in a cycle of political turmoil that oscillates between elections, street protests, and coups both military and judicial. Although this dynamic has dominated in Thailand since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, what we term the “wheel of crisis” has increased its rotational speed since the 1997 Asian economic collapse. This Hot Spot series inquires into the underlying conditions of Thailand’s recent political upheavals, with sections focusing on legal and political stuctures (Hewison, Haberkorn, Streckfuss, Sinpeng, Chachavalpongpun, and Winichakul), social divisions and citizenship (Mills, Elinoff, McCargo, and Arafat Bin Mohamad), the turning of civil society against democracy (Phatharathananunth, and Sae Chua), and larger structure questions (Tausig, Sopranzetti, and Aulino).

The list of papers and titles, all available for free download, is:Cultural Anthropology

Introduction: The Wheel of Crisis in Thailand by Ben Tausig, Claudio Sopranzetti, Eli Elinoff and Felicity Aulino

Judicial Politicization as Political Conservatism by Kevin Hewison

Article 17, a Totalitarian Movement, and a Military Dictatorship by Tyrell Haberkorn

The End of the Endless Exception?: Time Catches Up With Dictatorship in Thailand by David Streckfuss

The Cyber Coup by Aim Sinpeng

Academic Freedom Under Siege by Pavin Chachavalpongpun

Thai “Royalist Democracy”: From Nineteen Eighty-Four to The Great Dictator” by Thongchai Winichakul

Questioning Thailand’s Rural-Urban Divide by Mary Beth Mills

Like Everyone Else by Eli Elinoff

Double Trouble: Thailand’s Two Souths, Thailand’s Two Conflicts by Duncan McCargo

Red Shirts, Yellow Shirts, Same Difference by Muhammad Arafat Bin Mohammad

Civil Society Against Democracy by Somchai Phatharathananunth

Revisiting “People’s Politics” by Bencharat Sae Chua

Party Anthems by Ben Tausig

Political Legitimacy in Thailand by Claudio Sopranzetti

Hierarchy and the Embodiment of Change by Felicity Aulino





The threat of “royalist democracy”

13 02 2012

A few days ago PPT used the term “royalist democracy” in a post. We used it much as we would use “Thai-style democracy,” a term that has been in wide circulation for several decades.

At the Bangkok Post today we see that noted historian Thongchai Winichakul has used “royalist democracy” to define “a regime whereby elite groups exploit the monarchy for their political legitimacy.”

In a talk, Thongchai observed that “royalist democracy” as a system “took root as a result of fear of communism during the Indochina War in 1970s, followed by the dilution of military prowess after Black May in 1992.” This brought a longing for absolute monarchy.

“From the hysterical hyper-royalism seen during 1975-1977 emerges the indulgence of loyalty through divinisation of the monarchy and marketisation of royalism,” he said. “This has resulted in prevalent sentiment towards the monarchical institution as religiosity.”

He describes “Hyper royalism” as “a cult and a hallucinogen for Thais through education and media machinations, resulting in self-censorship, hypocrisy, fear, and rumours…”.

Thongchai characterizes “royalist democracy” as dangerous because its “resistance to social change would lead to clashes between the institution of monarchy and democracy…”.

While mentioning royalist (non-)democracy, some readers might also be interested in a further review of King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life’s Work by Grant Evans in the Bangkok Post. It is rather more critical than an earlier review in The Nation. It also comments on resistance to change and democracy:

… Changes across the social spectrum manifest themselves politically in the refusal of a huge swathe of the population to comply with pre-existing norms concerning their place in society.

There is no going back to “traditional” Thailand.

If there is one clear lesson for monarchies from the 20th century it is that they cannot be seen as an obstacle to democracy. The defenders of lese-majeste in its present form are today in danger of forcing people to make what would be a fatal choice between monarchy and democracy.

It seems that the decision on whether a country should sustain a monarchy or be a republic can be fatal for a monarchy when it resists the tide of history.





So this is democracy

8 02 2012

Section 163 of the 2007 constitution states:

The persons having the right to vote of not less than ten thousand in number shall have a right to submit a petition to the President of the National Assembly to consider such bill as prescribed in Chapter 3 and Chapter 5 of this Constitution.

A bill must be attached to the petition referred to in paragraph one.

The rules and procedure for the petition and the examination thereof shall be in accordance with the provisions of the law.

In considering the bill under paragraph one, the House of Representatives and the Senate shall facilitate representatives of the persons submitting a petition to state the principles of the bill and the non-standing committee for considering such bill shall consist of representatives of the persons submitting a petition in an amount of not less than one-third of the total number of its members.

At The Nation this is reported:

Both coalition and opposition MPs will ignore any bill submitted by the people to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the spokesman of the House speaker said Wednesday.

Wattana Sengpairoh, the personal spokesman of House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranon, said although voters or civil groups would gather signatures to sponsor a bill to amend Article 112, the House would leave the bill to lapse.

Wattana said both the coalition and opposition saw that the article should not be amened.

“So, I am making this announcement so that the society could feel relieved. The Pheu Thai has 265 MPs and it will not support any bill that seeks to amend Article 112. The opposition will not support the bill either. If such a bill is submitted the House, it will be left pending and eventually lapse,” Wattana said.

So is this royalist “democracy”?