AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 68

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Session 68: Political Participation & Conflict in Thailand

Political Participation in Thailand: An Analysis of the Resource Model
Ginger Denton, , USA

Research regarding individual involvement in political participation has been conducted in the United States, but less has been investigated in a systematic manner with regards to emerging democracies in Asia. Those living in stable, industrial, Western democracies often automatically think of elections, campaigning, and voting when considering what “participation” means, but this is not the case everywhere. Persuading others to vote, boycotts, signing a petition, etc. are all examples of political participation and should be included in research related to participation. This study will research the features and degree of political participation in Thailand. Verba and Nie’s 1972 typology of six different participating types will be utilized. This paper will present and account for the patterns of participation and how various social factors impact with what type of participation an individual will be involved. Recent data from the Asian Barometer make it possible for this paper to explore participation modes. By utilizing the survey response data, this paper will explore participation modes and social factors such as gender, education, income, age, etc. Additionally, this study will evaluate the consequences that those patterns have on individuals.

“Western Analyses of the 2010 Thai Political Turmoil: A Case Study of the Crisis of Representation”
Gerald Fry, University of Minnesota, USA

In April/May of 2010, Thailand experienced its worst political crisis ever. The turmoil attracted the attention of journalists and scholars from around the globe. The purpose of this paper is to analyze critically the Western writing about and reporting of the crisis. The basic research questions of the study are as follows: Many Thais are critical of the Western coverage of the events that transpired. To what extent is their critique valid? In what ways did Western writings and reporting distort Thai realities? The conceptual framework for the study is the “crisis of representation” reflected in the important writings of Edward Said and Linda Tuhiwai Smith who introduced the constructs of Orientalism and decolonizing methodologies respectively. Another perspective used in the paper is internal colonialism. The current Thai political polarization has a strong regional dimension. The initial background part of the paper will provide a critical historical perspective on Western writing on Thailand. Then there will be an explanation of the complex events leading up to the 2010 crisis, such as the military coup of September, 2006, that ousted Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra from power. The major writing and reporting on the crisis will then be critically assessed, using these criteria: 1) To what extent were there important factual errors made? 2) How did writers obtain their information about what was going on in Thailand? To what extent was Thai language ability an issue? 3) How was reporting and writing influenced and biased by basic ideological values?

The politics of blood: red shirts, yellow shirts and colour coded conflict in Thailand
Mark J. Smith, Open University, United Kingdom

This paper argues that the colour coded movements of Thailand are rooted in deep social divisions between the urban elite (amart) and the masses (prai) in rural areas but also the lower paid in cities like Bangkok. From 2001, Thaksin initiated a series of social reforms that benefitted the ‘prai’ in terms of healthcare, debt relief, microcredit and education. Fearful for their status and power following Thaksin’s 2005 landslide, the PAD (Yellow Shirts) emerged to bring Thaksin down, leading to a coup and subsequent protests against the election results afterwards. This paper suggests that despite the banning of TRT and PPP the support for pre-coup politics remains strong and Red Shirts have campaigned for a restoration of the 1997 constitution. The PAD’s New Politics Party called for elected representatives to play a smaller part in parliament and the formation of Governments. In response to disenfranchisement, the Red Shirts transformed from a supportive organisation of specific political parties to an autonomous movement concerned with democracy and social justice. In 2010, the red shirts used blood symbolically, marking the gates of Government House, challenging the urban elite, itself forged through the inter-familial ties and blood lines preserving status, power and wealth over generations. In reply, the subjects asserted their political status as citizens and ultimately their blood was spilled on the streets. Blood provides an important metaphor for understanding contemporary Thai political discourses and how different social forces face rapid development in the context of a traditional power structures with increasing inequality.