Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 36/3 (Dec 2014). Special Focus on "The Challenges of Democratic Consolidation in Thailand"

Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 36/3 (Dec 2014). Special Focus on "The Challenges of Democratic Consolidation in Thailand"
Date of publication:  December 2014
Publisher:  Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Number of pages:  160
Code:  CS36/3
Soft Cover
ISSN: 0129797X
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  • Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 36/3 (Dec 2014). Special Focus on "The Challenges of Democratic Consolidation in Thailand"
    [Whole Publication, ISSN: 1793284X]
  • Preliminary pages
  • Democratic Regression in Thailand: The Ambivalent Role of Civil Society and Political Institutions, by Erik M Kuhonta, Aim Sinpeng, authors
    Since late 2005, Thailand has been mired in a deep political crisis that has now gone through two coups: September 2006 and May 2014. The two coups have revealed deep ambiguities in the roles that civil society and political institutions, especially constitutions and constitutional courts, play in the polity. Although one generally expects civil society and constitutional structures to address democratic goals related to enfranchisement, accountability and political rights, what one witnesses in Thailand is something completely different. Civil society and constitutional actors have been driven by partisan interests rather than democratic values. In both the lead-up to the 2006 and 2014 coups, civil society forces mobilized forcefully on the streets of Bangkok to oust democratically-elected governments. In the process, they provided the political space and legitimacy for the military to intervene. Constitutional courts and constitutions have also worked<br>to further anti-democratic ends. The drafting of the 2007 Constitution was an unequivocal effort to weaken political parties and bring back a landscape of institutional fragmentation, with the ultimate goal of preventing Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies from returning to power. The Constitutional Court has also handed down numerous verdicts that reflect political interests rather than the objective application of the rule of law. Thus, Thailand’s democratic polity rests on quicksand: social forces and institutions that are expected to strengthen democracy have shown themselves to be deeply ambivalent about their relationship<br>to democracy.<br>
  • Unmaking Civil Society: Activist Schisms and Autonomous Politics in Thailand, by Eli Elinoff, author
    This article examines the shifting terrain of politics in Thailand since 1992. To do so, it re-evaluates the democratization literature that sought to understand the relationship between Thai civil society and democratic consolidation and explores the disagreements within activist networks that have emerged in recent years. These simultaneous analyses reveal that (1) the civil society literature was itself political, and (2) that such a characterization obscured the growing schisms in the hearts of civil society networks around questions of democracy. To understand this argument, I describe the overlapping terrain of government Thaksin created and its effects on coalitions of urban activists. These shifts reduced the power of many previous activist networks by redirecting money through new state agencies like the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI). They also exposed the kinds of power relations central to the longstanding project of governing the poor that many citizens had to engage with in order to gain state benefits. Although many citizens continue to participate in these projects, they have begun to express their demands for autonomous political voice elsewhere. What is at stake in these disagreements and Thailand’s larger political quandary is not the boundaries of civil society, but rather a contest over who is a proper political subject and what constitutes proper politics.
  • The Rise and Fall of Electoral Violence in Thailand: Changing Rules, Structures and Power Landscapes, 1997-2011, by Prajak Kongkirati, author
    From 1997 to 2006, the 1997 Constitution and its newly designed electoral system and the rise of a strong populist party led by Thaksin Shinawatra<br>and the 2006 coup transformed local political structures and power balances. Thaksin’s ambitious goal of monopolizing the political market raised the stakes of electoral competition, forcing provincial bosses to employ violent tactics to defeat their competitors. Consequently, the demand for and supply of electoral violence increased, as witnessed in the 2001 and 2005 elections. After the 2006 coup, political settings at the national and local levels underwent another major change. The royal-military intervention in the electoral process combined with growing ideological politics stifled and marginalized provincial bosses, thereby<br>decreasing the demand for violence. As a result, incidents of violence during the 2007 and 2011 elections declined. Thai electoral politics and its pattern of violence are currently in a state of transition. Some new elements have emerged, but they have not yet completely replaced the old ones. The exercise of privatized violence by the provincial bosses was a remnant of the political and economic order established in the 1980s. This unsettling phenomenon will not entirely disappear until the patrimonial structure of the state is radically transformed and personalistic fighting over government spoils and rent-distribution are substantially reduced
  • Competing Notions of Judicialization in Thailand, by Duncan McCargo, author
    This article examines the politics of judicialization in Thailand between 2006 and 2014, looking at the ways in which the judiciary became regularly embroiled in politics during this extremely contentious period. It takes as its starting point important royal speeches of 2006, and the interpretation of those speeches offered by the prominent academic and social critic Thirayudh Boonmee. Several key judicial decisions which had lasting political consequences are closely examined,<br>including the 2006 election annulment, the 2007 banning of Thai Rak Thai, the removal of pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Ministers Samak Sundaravej and Yingluck Shinawatra in 2008 and 2014, Thaksin’s conviction on corruption-related charges in 2008 and the judicial seizure of his assets in 2010. Some of the questions posed in this paper are as follows: Does judicialization inevitably mean conservative attempts to curtail the power of politicians and undermine electoral<br>politics? Are judges working on behalf of Thai society, or in alignment with certain vested interests? Could greater judicial activism serve progressive social and political causes in the Thai context? The paper argues that Thailand’s “judicialization” is a complex phenomenon: judgements made by different courts, in<br>different cases and at different times need to be scrutinized on their individual merits.
  • Party Banning and the Impact on Party System Institutionalization in Thailand, by Aim Sinpeng, author
    The practice of political party banning and dissolution seems at odds with democratic ideals. Since 2006, however, Thailand has witnessed the dissolution of seven parties and the banning of hundreds of politicians. This article seeks to address the causes of party banning in Thailand and its effects on party institutionalization between 2006 to 2008. Its findings show that party banning not only affected the banned parties, but also the rest of the parties in the political system. Party banning and dissolution — a factor largely overlooked in the existing literature — unevenly impacts different dimensions of party institutionalization. As such, the Thai case shows that party banning greatly weakens the “autonomy” of party institutionalization, while it has differential effects on the party system’s “legitimacy”. While the bans reveal that many political actors view the electoral process as illegitimate, the findings show little effect on voter’s attitudes towards the legitimacy of the party system. Moreover, this article breaks new ground in the study of party institutionalization in new democracies by relying on context-based, qualitative measures of party institutionalization, not electoral volatility which is used in most studies.
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  • BOOK REVIEW: Comparing Institution-Building in East Asia: Power Politics, Governance and Critical Junctures. By Hidetaka Yoshimatsu, by Malcolm Cook, author
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