Advertisement

Order and Chaos: Military Government and the Middle Classes in Thailand

  • James OckeyEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Since the Thai military was reorganized along Western lines in the 1880s, there have been 19 coup attempts, 12 of them resulting in the overthrow of the government. Thai political scientist Chai-Anan Samudavanija has characterized this pattern as a ‘vicious cycle’ where following a military coup, there has been a period of military rule, followed by the writing of a constitution, the holding of an election, a ‘honeymoon’ period for the new legislature, then rising tensions and another coup. While this pattern has held for over 80 years now, there are two other linked patterns that have received less attention. First, the periods of rule for soldiers and civilians reversed after the 1973 democratic uprising, with civilian governments lasting longer than military governments. Military governments had become truly interim, governing on average for only a year. Second, beginning in 1932, virtually every military regime governed with the assistance of civilian allies. The current military regime has marked a large step backward on both these latter patterns, with the army commander taking on the prime ministership himself, appointing a cabinet made up almost entirely of senior military officers, and then staying in power for a longer time than any military government since the 1960s. What do we make of this shift? I will argue that the Thai military has come to associate democracy with chaos and has sought to promote that perception. It seeks to impose greater military-style order on society, by creating a more lasting government of generals, and has plans to perpetuate that military-style order into the foreseeable future, even as it plans elections and a return to civilian rule. This chapter will explore the implications of that attitude for the future of democracy in Thailand.

References

  1. Albritton, Robert, and Bureekul Thawilwadee. 2008. Public opinion and political power in Thailand. Bangkok: King Prajadhipok’s Institute.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, Benedict. 2014. Exploration and irony in studies of Siam over forty years. Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program.Google Scholar
  3. “Army Unveils Song ‘Authored By Gen. Prayuth,’” Khaosot English 8 June 2014.Google Scholar
  4. Chai-Anan, Samudavanija. 1982. The Thai young Turks. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  5. Chambers, Paul. 2016. Under the boot: Military–civil relations in Thailand since the 2014 coup. Working Paper Series No. 187. City University of Hong Kong, Southeast Asia Research Centre (SEARC).Google Scholar
  6. Draft Constitution. 2014. Available online at Student Weekly (Bangkok Post). Accessed May 17, 2017. http://www.student-weekly.com/pdf/200415-constitution-th.pdf (Thai version); unofficial English translation http://www.student-weekly.com/pdf/200415-constitution-en.pdf.
  7. Election Commission of Thailand. 2016. Prakat khanakammakan luaktang ruang phon kanoksiang [Announcement of the Election Commission of the Results of the Referendum]. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/*; http://www.ect.go.th/th/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ect110816.pdf.
  8. Farrelly, Nicholas. 2016. Being Thai: A narrow identity in a wide world. Southeast Asian Affairs 2016: (331–43). Project MUSE. muse.jhu.edu/article/627466.
  9. Frykman, Jonas, and Orvar Löfgren. 1987. Culture builders: A historical anthropology of middle-class life. Translated by Alan Crozier. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Huntington, Samuel. 1968. Political order in changing societies. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  11. International Crisis Group. 2015. Thailand’s lengthening roadmap to elections. Asia report no. 274, December 10. https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-east-asia/thailand/thailand-s-lengthening-roadmap-elections.
  12. Janowitz, Morris. 1964a. The military in the development of new nations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 1964b. The military in the political development of new nations. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 20 (8): 6–10.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00963402.1964.11454697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jones, David Martin. 1998. Democratization, civil society, and illiberal middle class culture in Pacific Asia. Comparative Politics 30 (2): 147–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McCargo, Duncan. 2015. Thailand in 2014: The trouble with magic swords. Southeast Asian Affairs 2015: 337–358 https://muse.jhu.edu/article/583057.Google Scholar
  16. NIDA Poll. 2017. 3 pi Ko. So. Cho. kap kankhuen khwamsuk hai khon nai chat [3 years of the NCPO and returning happiness to people in the nation]. Accessed May 21, 2017. http://nidapoll.nida.ac.th/index.php?op=polls-detail&id=535.
  17. Nun, Jose. 1967. The middle class military coup. In The politics of conformity in Latin America, ed. Claudio Veliz, 66–118. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Ockey, James. 2001. On the expressway, and under it: Representations of the middle class, the poor, and democracy in Thailand. In House of glass: Culture, modernity, and the state in Southeast Asia, ed. Yao Souchou, 313–337. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2004. 2004. Making democracy: Leadership, class, gender and political participation in Thailand. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  20. Pasuk, Phongpaichit, and Chris Baker, eds. 2016. Unequal Thailand: Aspects of income, wealth, and power. Singapore: National University of Singapore.Google Scholar
  21. Prawit, Rojanaphruek. 2014. Prasopkan kaktua baep bik brathoe thahan yuk [The experience of imprisonment big brother style in the soldier era]. 4 June 2014. Accessed https://blogazine.pub/blogs/pravit/post/4815#sthash.8IT7M87Y.dpuf.
  22. ———. 2015. Kankakkhan lae prap thasanakhati khaphajao doi phadetkanthahan ko. so. cho. rop song [My imprisonment and attitude adjustment by the military authoritarian NCPO round two] Fadiaokan 13, 141–148.Google Scholar
  23. Siamwalla, Ammar, and Somchai Jitsuchon. 2012. The socio-economic bases of the red/yellow divide: A statistical analysis. In Bangkok May 2010: Perspectives on a divided Thailand, ed. Michael Montesano, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and Aekapol Chongvilaivan, 64–71. Singapore: ISEAS.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sopranzetti, Claudio. 2016. Thailand’s relapse: The implications of the May 2014 coup. The Journal of Asian Studies 75: 299–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stepan, Alfred. 1971. The military in politics: Changing patterns in Brazil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.Google Scholar
  26. Strekfuss, David. 2014. Freedom and silencing under the neo-absolutist monarchy regime in Thailand, 2006–2011. In Good coup gone bad: Thailand’s political developments since Thaksin’s downfall, ed. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, 109–140. Singapore: ISEAS.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations