Recent academic publications on Thailand’s politics

13 08 2019

Every so often, PPT scans academic journals to see what has been published over the past 12-18 months. Here’s a list of politics-focused research that we located. Some of them are very much better than others. Unfortunately, most are behind paywalls but we have found that authors will often send a copy if requested:

‘Long Live Ratthathammanūn!’: Constitution worship in revolutionary Siam in Modern Asian Studies and by Puli Fuwongcharoen

New Wine in an Old Bottle: Female Politicians, Family Rule, and Democratization in Thailand in Modern Asian Studies and by Yoshinori Nishizaki

Ironic political reforms: elected senators, party-list MPs, and family rule in Thailand in Critical Asian Studies and by Yoshinori Nishizaki

Gold diggers and their housewives: the gendered political economy of Thai labor export to Saudi Arabia, 1975–1990 in Critical Asian Studies and by Katie Rainwater

Dictatorship, Monarchy, and Freedom of Expression in Thailand in Journal of Asian Studies and by Tyrell Haberkorn

Subjects of politics: Between democracy and dictatorship in Thailand in Anthropological Theory and by Eli Elinoff

Thailand: an old relationship renewed in The Pacific Review and by Kevin Hewison

Haunted Past, Uncertain Future: The Fragile Transition to Military-Guided Semi-Authoritarianism in Thailand in Southeast Asian Affairs 2018 and by Prajak Kongkirati

Crisis of Democracy in Thailand and the Network of Monarchy in Paradigma and by Aryanta Nugraha

Thailand’s Traditional Trinity and the Rule of Law: Can They Coexist? in Asian Studies Review and by Björn Dressel

Thailand 4.0 and the Internal Focus of Nation Branding in Asian Studies Review and by Petra Desatova

Uneven development, inequality and concentration of power: a critique of Thailand 4.0 in Third World Quarterly and by Prapimphan Chiengkul

The Iron Silk Road and the Iron Fist: Making Sense of the Military Coup D’État in Thailand in Austrian Journal of South East Asian Studies and by Wolfram Schaffar

Alternative Development Concepts and Their Political Embedding: The Case of Sufficiency Economy in Thailand in Forum for Development Studies and by Wolfram Schaffar

Agents, Principals, or Something in Between? Bureaucrats and Policy Control in Thailand in Journal of East Asian Studies and by Jacob I. Ricks

The never changing story: Eight decades of the government public relations department of Thailand in Public Relations Review and by NapawanTantivejakul

Proud to be Thai: The Puzzling Absence of Ethnicity-Based Political Cleavages in Northeastern Thailand in Pacific Affairs and by Jacob Ricks

Politics and the Price of Rice in Thailand: Public Choice, Institutional Change and Rural Subsidies in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Jacob Ricks

Anti-Royalism in Thailand Since 2006: Ideological Shifts and Resistance in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Anonymous

Coloured Judgements? The Work of the Thai Constitutional Court, 1998–2016 in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Björn Dressel and Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang

Is Irrigationalism a Dominant Ideology in Securing Hydrotopia in Mekong Nation States? in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by David J. H. Blake

Drivers of China’s Regional Infrastructure Diplomacy: The Case of the Sino-Thai Railway Project in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Laurids S. Lauridsen

Thailand’s Public Secret: Military Wealth and the State in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Ukrist Pathmanand and Michael K. Connors

The Unruly Past: History and Historiography of the 1932 Thai Revolution in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Arjun Subrahmanyan

Worldly compromise in Thai Buddhist modernism in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and by Arjun Subrahmanyan

Memories of collective victimhood and conflict in southern Thailand in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and by Muhammad Arafat Bin Mohamad

The Prayuth Regime: Embedded Military and Hierarchical Capitalism in Thailand in TRaNS and by Prajak Kongkirati and Veerayooth Kanchoochat

Thailand Trapped: Catch-up Legacies and Contemporary Malaise in TRaNS and by Veerayooth Kanchoochat

Expansion of Women’s Political Participation through Social Movements: The Case of the Red and Yellow Shirts in Thailand in Journal of Asian and African Studies and by Duanghathai Buranajaroenkij and others

Constitution-Making in 21st-Century Thailand: The Continuing Search for a Perfect Constitutional Fit in The Chinese Journal of Comparative Law and by Andrew James Harding and Rawin Leelapatana

The political economy of state patronage of religion: Evidence from Thailand in International Political Science Review and by Tomas Larsson

The conundrum of a dominant party in Thailand in Asian Journal of Comparative Politics and by Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee

Generals in defense of allocation: Coups and military budgets in Thailand in Journal of Asian Economics and by Akihiko Kawaura

Updated: Bumbling academics

25 01 2014

PPT is continually amazed by the antics of academics associated with the anti-democrats. Sadly, many of their interventions reflect badly on them as academics.

We have seen them using foul and misogynist language, making stuff up and some of them, wig in place, leading blockades of various homes of ministers.

Nothing wrong in a democratic society with putting your wig on and blocking the premier’s house or getting so antsy with some foreign journalist that you say quite bizarre things, but it is the “academic” bit that is troubling.

Most of this lot simply are not academics in the usual sense of the word. Few of them contribute anything at all to the usual research debate that drives scientific and cultural knowledge. When they write it is opinion pieces that show scant knowledge of their subject. When they speak, it is propaganda.

PPT was set thinking about this when we read an op-ed by a Chulalongkorn University researcher who has published reasonable research articles in the past. Ukrist Pathmanand has written useful papers on Thaksin Shinawatra, telecommunications and the military.

Hence, we were surprised by his piece at the Bangkok Post: where he commented on the anti-democratic movement and international relations and seemed to us to demonstrate some remarkable academic blindness.

He tries to explain why China and the U.S. have “react[ed] differently to democracy in Thailand, and the political rallies led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).”

He puts this in terms of “specific national interest.” He says:

… the term “national interest” used here does not necessarily convey the cliched concept of a conspiracy theory, which has been used excessively to imply an attempt to lead a certain political ideology and /or to discredit a rival party.

To be honest, we don’t understand this idea of a “conspiracy.” Are we at PPT missing an important debate? We thought the term had a particular meaning and location in international relations writing, as briefly mentioned by Wikipedia:

The national interest … is a country’s goals and ambitions whether economic, military, or cultural. The concept is an important one in international relations where pursuit of the national interest is the foundation of the realist school.But even if a conspiracy theory is not the case here, what is certain is that each world superpower wants to secure its interests in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region.

He alerts us – if that was at all necessary – that Thailand has a “national interest,” and then turns to the “strikingly different reactions from the international community” to the anti-democrats.

So Ukrist wants us to understand different reactions by the U.S. and China. But then this:

The West and Asian giants like China clearly voiced their support for the democratically elected government. Of course, as diplomatic etiquette would dictate, it’s not likely any country would say otherwise _ showing support for the democratically elected is a principle they hold dear.

Readers might be surprised to learn that China “holds dear” the “principle” that it should “support for the democratically elected.” Readers might also find this claim for the U.S. made absurd by recent history.

Based on these false claims, Ukrist then explores “differences” that turn out to be not differences at all.

He babbles about China being a superpower, apparently unaware of the very large academic debates about this, and refers to “neoliberal” China’s “fast, active, or even aggressive policy regarding matters within the Southeast Asia region including Thailand.” He refers specifically to economic interests and FTAs, and decides: “It’s not likely China as a huge trading partner would give up those multi-billion transactions so easily,” and adds:

With opportunities for extra political and diplomatic negotiations arising from major trade, China certainly sees a democratically-elected government as a means by which to secure its position.

Again, readers may wonder what he’s on about. PPT thinks Ukrist is saying that the Chinese government must support the Yingluck Shinawatra government in order to protect its economic interests. Perhaps, but it doesn’t require an elected government to do that, as has been shown in many other places where China happily invests. He continues:

Chinese-language and English-language media have portrayed the situation as threatening and chaotic, without mentioning the positive sides of the protests, including the fact that they give various opinion groups a chance to voice their views _ an unlikely scenario for the Chinese government to endorse.

Yes, this yellow-shirted intellectual is confused by China’s response. Perhaps if he’d researched a bit, he’d have found that the Chinese regime has a penchant for supporting incumbent governments that maintain political and economic stability. We are unsure whether Ukrist thinks this is good and appropriate or not. He seems confused.

But the comments on the U.S. reveal perhaps a little more. He gets agitated that “the prototype for democracy worldwide has “revealed a paradoxical reaction towards the situation, fiercely supporting the government while turning a blind eye to the people’s movement and civil society whose protest is largely peaceful.”

Appealing for elections and peaceful resolution of a crisis “while [sending] strong signals … to warn the military against staging a coup” seems “paradoxical”? We are lost, but Ukrist “explains” his tortured logic:

The ideological framework and reaction of the US can be traced back to a biased attempt to undermine the notion of “Thai-style democracy”.

He doesn’t explain “Thai-style democracy” but tramples on:

What’s noteworthy is how the US and the Western media, who should have understood the development of democracy in Thailand, failed to grasp the reality that democracy has been prevalent in Thailand through past elections, during each of which the campaign for votes was widespread and regular.

And the point is? We are sure the previous sentences are garbled and he means something else, for he writes that:

Thailand’s democracy has unique complications similar to the development of democracy in other nations in Southeast Asia where traces of oligarchy remain influential, as well as local influences and power, and faith in an individual figure.

Oligarchs and faith in individuals? Has Ukrist never studied democratic politics anywhere else? But his point seems to be that “[d]emocracy comes in various forms … and it would be either ignorant or narrow-minded if the US and Western media fail to differentiate ‘anti-government’ from ‘anti-democracy’.” In fact, PPT reckons that is exactly what they are doing.

Ukrsit then lets his imagination outpace his already flawed logic. He says the while some “rally leaders [are] trying to court military involvement, the civic group that has been the backbone of the rally desires no coup.” Which civic group is this? The extremists “students”? The Democrat Party? Perhaps he means just the people who show up for the rallies? But is that a “civic group”? There have been plenty of signs at the rallies asking for a coup.

For some unknown reason he gets upset that “active political expression is undermined by the attempt of the Western media to brand the protest a festive carnival.” He seems to completely miss the point that such descriptions are not negative at all and are even read by many as supportive of the protesters.

So if you’ve been lost in this potpourri of “academic analysis,” this “academic” explains:

Of course, the US has been enjoying economic, political and military benefits in the Southeast Asia region, but it’s the political issue that’s perennially on top of Washington’s agenda, isn’t it?

And the whistles that have been blown to banish authoritarianism and corruption in Thailand are not different from the song of protests sung in North Africa, Turkey and Ukraine.

In other words, all of this is to explain that both China and the U.S. support the incumbent government, one for economic interests and the other for “political” or even ideological reasons.

Is it the political – and he means democracy – that always wins for Washington? Perhaps Ukrist could ask the Egyptian military? Ukrist doesn’t even consider the U.S.’s very substantial investments and capital stock in Thailand; these are well in excess of the Chinese.

Perhaps both China and the U.S. are tired of the ridiculous nature of Thailand’s politics? Perhaps they are reflecting their investors? Perhaps Ukrist could try doing a little research rather than being a propagandist.

Update: Voranai Vanijaka’s interventions in debates of late have been rather good and interesting. That’s a big compliment as we have been very critical of him previously. His op-ed today at the Bangkok Post reflects on some of the issues we raise above: “academics” not really being able to teach about the past. In our view, this is often because they don’t know it because they haven’t researched it. He asks:

The transitional period is something every society goes through, but with all the histories out there to learn from, we still manage to be in such a mess. This is simply because we are clueless about ourselves and the world around us.

How are we to shape the future, if we haven’t learned about our past? How are we to understand where we are today, if we don’t study the history that led to the present?

So often, both sides get it wrong. Voranai suggests this as one issue that needs to be studied: “How society copes in a land where feudalism, democracy and dictatorship are in such a tangled mess.”

%d bloggers like this: