1. wasan panyagew says:

    I wrote and carefully used ‘a white night’ because most Thai, if they had follwoed what had happened before the Coup, would also think that this is not a hero story. But unfortunately many Thai middle class thought that the so called Kor Por Kor, please read it in Thai you will get some kind of sexual sounds here, was it.
    Let me think in another way, though it would sound like an absurd fiction, this is perhpas in fact understanable, since many Thai rurals have migrated to BK for a few decades and they are now counted 9 in 10 of the whole population of this metropol. So it is in fact this number that represent so called Thai middle class in BK. And many Bangkokians in fact recently mogved to the north.

    Rural-Urban dichotomy may be already useless here!.

  2. A 19 year old Thai says:

    You claim to have read the thai constitutions. Well I doubt that you had because if you did you would have realised tha its illegal for anyone to criticse or harm the King. Thais and the international community knows about this clause and we accepted and voted for it to be part of our constitution. What you are saying is legally wrong.

    On the other hand, it is perfectly legal to criticise the prime minister. He wanted power thats why he came into politics so we have the right to critcise or condemn him. But the King is different, the institution has always been there, therefore the King reserve the right not to be scrutinized like politicians.

    Lastly, if you love your country, wouldn’t critiise your PM if he was corrupt, if he sold security assests like telecommunication away to foreign governments, if he committed extrajudicial killings and other abuse of rights, if he negotiated with foreign country about giving up territorial rights in exchange for non-territorial benefits? Wouldnt you criticise your PM? You may be afraid to do it, but we Thais are not.

    Go do your research before you even decide to slander.

  3. Defend King says:

    How dare you question the genius of the King of Thailand!

    He is in the Gueness Book of world records for having the most honorary PhDs in the world. How many PhDs do *you* have, Mr. Jory?

  4. aiontay says:

    Back in the early 1990s their were KNU “pirates” extracting money from the largely Thai fishing boats in the waters the SLORC opened up for fishing concessions. Of course, that won’t be who Rambo is fighting, but hey, I don’t think Stallone is going to let good ethnography stand in the way of a good story, and pirates are always a good story. I just hope Mel Gibson is the co-star!

  5. Ant says:

    Wasan, I am sure Andrew has a lot of experience of rural Thai life and would be interested to hear more about it. The “plot” of Thai politics with its predictable scripts that you bemoan here is, I agree, tedious. I don’t think your “middle-class” is limited to Bangkok, however. Chiangmai, Phitsanulok, Khonkaen, Khorat, Songkhla to name a few, have significant mddle-class populations with similar trajectories, aspirations etc as Bangkok. Much of the rural myth that you, like me, find tedious, is perpetuated more by the narrow analyses of economists and political scientists, both local and foreign, and I think that Andrew’s take on vote buying and rural politics resonates closely with these. I certainly don’t see the coup leaders as white knights nor do I subscribe to ideas of vote buying as corrupt. I think both are normative processes in Thai politics and needn’t be valorised as anything more.

  6. A 19 year old Thai says:

    If you want to criticize SOAS please do so but don’t bring the royal family into this. Also, although you accuse SOAS of being one sided, your article which you implied as fair is clearly a one-sided attack of good people whom you dont even truly know – why dont you send your letter directly to the people you criticised to give them a chance to defend themselves?
    Also you should know that, Thailand currently faces flood problem (because the Thaksin administration was severely behind in flood prevention preparation over the past 5 years). So while people are suffering from Thaksin’s failure not only does the king give advise, provide important information like satellite image, he also asked government’s official to direct the water to flood HIS OWN land so his people will suffer less. This is only one example of the King’s heartfelt concern for the people – perhaps you may now begin to understand why even the United Nations presented the King with the “Life Time Development Award”. To my understanding, Rama 9 is the first and only person to have received this award. A superficial researcher like you will never understand the love we have for our King.
    We love the King on our own free will and we also -again from our own free will- hate when people criticize the king, even in the slightest way. Also most people who work closely for the king, like Gen prem, Gen Sonthi and Surayuth share similar personality with him. If you truly understood Thailand, if you had just a fraction of knowledge of Thaksin’s corruption, anti-human rights power consolidating tactics and money politics then you would not have written such a poorly researched narrow perspective letter.
    If it wasnt for the coup there would have been bloodshed on the night of 20/9. Again, if you have done your research you would have known why the military had to act. You should also know that Thais support the coup not because we are undemocratic but because democracy was manipulated and undermined by Thaksin to the extent that it cannot be saved via the mechanisms made defunct by Thaksin.
    When termites have eaten away virtually all the foundation of the house, some people attached too textbook idealism may think that the house can still be fixed and that the termites will run away by themselves, but people who care about having a strong shelter to live in and pass on to their children will be more pragmatic and realise that as much as we dont want to destroy the house, the house has already been damaged beyond repair – we need to clear away the termite infested house inorder to build a new one. We support the coup because we love democracy.
    Dr Patrick, I suspect you are afraid of getting sued by your own government so you can only criticise your own government through articles other people write, but you should know that your country will only get worse unless you rid yourself of your fear and criticise your government. I think as a citizen of your own country, you will understand the situation in your country better and be able to write more valid criticisms- it will bode better for your academic career (unless of cos you are sued or arrested by your own government). In any case, you do know not enough about Thailand to even qualify for an attack on our King. As a Buddhist nation, we forgive your naivity and understand why you are indirectly forced to agree with your government stance and have to write this letter even though it is not even your country or your business. I understand that your government stand to lose alot with the removal of Thaksin. I know why you and your country have to criticise.. I pity you. You have alot to learn from us Thais.

  7. More coverage from the conference from a Singaporean blog… a quote:

    “Beside the irony of the military delivering liberals from Thaksin’s new authoritarianism, we seem to have liberals arguing that rewriting constitutions and having elections should not be the focus of building a really-existing democracy.”

  8. Rebecca Ryan says:

    Bangkok Pundit
    In that case Dr. Jory should conduct better research before making any kind of comment. Much of the logic in his article was based around the lese majeste rule inhibiting earnst discussion. I am trying to follow the academic insights in to thailand’s political situation on this page but am finding it hard to take many opinions seriously (Dr. Jory, Walker and NF) because they seem to lack certain basic understandings of thailand needed to make an informed academic opinion. I am not trying to discredit- just that I think they are on the right track but need to do more research about Thailand to balance their views.

  9. Wasan says:

    First I sure that Andrew has a lot of expereine of Thai rural life.

    What is so soapy for these discussions. when ‘something wrong’ happened in Thai politics like the Coup 19-09-2549, the old plot is immediately brought out and framed the ways peoples think, saying that the Thai rural folks are poor uneducated, they could be bought, while the middle class in BK in particular is seen as a kind of hero, rich of pol awareness and of course well educated, in addition, the Thai govt, whoever or which parties come to mechanise it those state takers and controllers would be painted by corruption, abuse of power for thier interest groups, and so on and on.
    And in this case, the Coup leaders are a kind of ‘a white knight’ who borns to be a hero and solve the problem just in time. And the Thai folk, most of them solute him.

    It is the story of the Power Elite, why one wold not think of this? And this is the Thai ways of operating De-Moc-Crasy.

  10. Ant says:

    Chris, I know the kind of vote buying “caravans” you are talking about but don’t think that is the limit to it. I think they constitue a public spectacle that is bordering on purely public relations almost compulsory for general good will for all involved. Like walking around to all the houses in sub-district elections, doing it doesn’t guarantee a vote but not doing it certainly is remembered in an unfavourable light. There are more strategic ways of buying votes and far more subtle or blended in with the social landscape. For example around songkhran, new year, funerals, marriages etc etc etc. you get politicians gifting strategically groups of local lads, influential people, inwhole arrays of social situations that generate a “bun khun” debt as well as being normative behaviour of “phu yai” who occuy or aspire to occupying office such as local, district etc politicians (often taxpayers money used). While banned for up to two months before elections (appearing at public situations like this, according to the new constitution) hua khanaen are sent in as proxies. They also get paid in some circumstances according to success etc.

    The deliberations on who to vote for are very serious and inevitably include considerations of who gets what from who if such and such gets in and as the peole do not exist in isolated, egalitarian individualistic frameworks but more socially oriented and interlinked circumstances, consderations for the individual are rarely made independent of one’s social self in terms of sets of relations one has, as other’s proseprity is usually beneficial to self in such contexts so long as other is someone you are allied with and so on. So thereis a related and vested interest created through and with vote buying. The intimidation, killing and what not still goes on and under Thaksin the involvement of national level politicians and public servants in local politics was tangible.

    The idea of dismissing vote buying off hand as ineffective in this context is too simplistic. While opportunism such as taking money from every party is likely the money being given in those circumstances is not expected to reap the rewards that more strategic, planned and negotiated vote buying does…a distinction needs to be made here where the anonymity of the ballot box should not be mistaken for the nature of relationships between people before during and after elections, it might seem appropriate, culturally familiar but it is not representative of what’s happening.

    In terms of the gross stereotype of farmers voting for Thaksin because of a “politically unsophisticated respect for authority”, is the respect and fondness that so many older folk have for Sarit and the paralells they drew between him and Thaksin unsophisticated or common sense considering how these kinds of leaders are credited with bringing stability that many bemoan as having gone…is it inconceivable for “farmers” to vote for this as they want/perceive a need for it, that that appeal is actually not unsophisticated but very pragmatic. I would say that economics isn’t the be all and end all of rationality here or there.

  11. Vichai N says:

    Jory I have read your long poster and it leaves me at my exact opinion of you and this website the first time I wallked in. This NEW MANDALA was created at around June 2006 is that right? Just about the time that disgraced corrupt dangerous ex-Thai leader was facing mounting citizens’ anger against his illegitimate mandate and the time when he started casting aspersions at people of ‘baramee’ in Thailand. That was not coincidence . . . Thaksin Shinawatra already had in mind to begin a campaign to weaken the insitution of the Thai monarchy . . just as he did with Thailand’s constitutional checks & balances if he was to perpetuate his massively corrupt rule. Because to be able to assume absolute powers in Thailand, Thaksin had to eliminate the monarchy factor.

    Hence my conclusion that this forum/website is driven by malice and not by any lofty scholastic or academic ideals that you would con readers to believe.

    Many Thais I believe kneel before HMK out of true affection for our most beloved monarch. I would not presume to know how foreigners view how we Thais conduct ourselves before our HMK and I don’t care less. But if your dislike of our Thai monarch stem from our Thai ‘kneeling’ before our monarch, or,our reserve to criticize our monarch . . . a ‘culture’ you feel oppressive but many Thais willingly accept . . . I just don’t see how I can view any of your poster or argument was motivated by reason, and, not ‘western’ prejudice.

    Thaksin deserved to be deposed . . in other forums we can argue at length on the why’s I believe so.

    But for now I just want to reject your proposition or suggestion that we Thais should abide by any ”western’ standard of democracy. Jory, Thaksin has so manipulated your ‘western-standard democracy’ we Thais rejected it outright, by military coup, which was an extraordinary act, that we Thais extraordinarily approved.

  12. Chris White says:

    Hi Ant

    Hopefully Andrew will recount his experiences with vote buying – it will be an interesting story. I have had some experience of vote buying in the northeast of Thailand that may be worthwhile contributing. I wasn’t present at the last elections but was there for the pervious election in held 2005. Yes vote buying happened big time and all parties contesting the seat had their hand in it. All I can say Andrew is that the villagers in my area would wish that it was a few hundred baht but in reality the sums handed across were more like 20 or 30 baht per family. I agree with you Ant in that in the area that I’m familiar with discussion about whom the best candidate to vote for can be quite vigorous at times, however, it is highly sophisticated and taken very seriously. Hua Kanaen (its not the term that is used in my area but its close enough) from all parties do come into the villages and do hand out small amounts of money. The villages accept the money – from all who offered it – gratefully with a smile and kind words. However, after the caravan had left for the next village there was general disappointment with the amount of money handed over. It was pointed out to me, on the number of occasions, that they would have received more money but it was believed (shock horror) that the Hua Kanaen had creamed off most of it for themselves.

    In my experience the types of ‘sets of relations’ that I’m guessing that you are referring to in your post do exist – but only as a type of palimpsest. They are sometimes acknowledged, but to the rural folk that I know, the reality of everyday life tends to inscribe a more pragmatic representation of the world.

  13. Rebecca Ryan says:

    Dr. Jory,
    your points are well put, however, I don’t believe you are totally correct
    in your analysis on thai royalty. Thais “crawl around” senior members in society (senior in age and social position) in general- it is just more pronounced with the immediate royal family. And the language used to address the king is actually a fusion of cambodian and old thai. The words are completely different eg. the word for eating in normal thai is “gin” or rabprathan” but in court language it is “savoey”. Court dictates that you end a sentence not with “ka” or Krub” but “peka” and “phyakha”. It is just another mode of communication. I’m not sure that RamaV irradicated this- because I was educated in the palace school in the 1980’s and we were stil taught this form of etiquette. It is not a must that you address the king in this language- only if you have been educated is is really expected. When the king is “up country” people often just use normal words. What they are expected to do is not stand at the same level (hence the constantcrawling kneeling and sitting). Mind you at traditional thai schools students act in a similar way towards teachers- not as extreme of course but enough to make any westerner kringe.
    I don’t see this behaviouras negative or overly important to merrit academic discussion though. I do understand how it is difficult to digest through western eyes.

  14. Ant says:

    At best it is a status quo philosophy that if you are poor stay poor if you are middle-class stay middle-class and if you are rich (like the King) stay rich…neofeudalism, perhaps?

  15. Confused says:

    nganadeeleg made good short comments in several posts above, why doesn’t anyone listen?

  16. Confused says:

    Whitewash Dr. Jory? Explain, please…

    What a waste of good mind but now so poisoned. Leave Thailand alone. Go back to Perth and condemn your own government. It does not have such a perfect government too, you know. Or do you think that there is nothing to criticized?

    You spend many years in studying about Thailand and teach, too, so that you can condemn this nation, people and the royal family? I cannot respect someone like you who have the knowledge that could be valuable contribution to the world at large but chose instead to lash out so many negative words about a country that you came to be a teacher at a university … did many researches and surveys about the nation, and the people. Why then is that you dislike Thailand? Did you brainwash all your Thai students to hate their country too? You are really not very respectable as a scholarly individual and your name will not be remembered, you will go to your grave without grace because you have none. Only the people who agree with you in this forum will lay by your side in the ground with epitaph saying, \”We Are the Disgrace of Our Intellectual Profession\” You don\’t deserve the honor of being a great man of knowledge. Your past works now have become a big lie. Let everyone know that truth before you disgrace yourself even more.

    You are probably a two-headed bird, you know that? While being so nice to your Thai friends and colleagues, behind their back you criticized them. Shame on you.

  17. nganadeeleg says:

    Please note that not all ‘anti Thaksin’ people are ‘pro Sondhi’

    As a general proposition I would be ‘anti coup’, but I am pleased that it has come and was bloodless.
    The coup would not have been necessary if Thaksin had resigned like he initially indicated he might do.

    I have no doubt that the King wants the best for Thailand and it’s people, and I fear how bad things would be if he was not there.

    I also fear what will happen when the King passes on, and see this coup as perhaps his last chance to set the country on the right course before he is gone.

  18. nganadeeleg says:

    My understanding of the Kings ‘sufficiency economy’ is that it does not only apply to the poor, but to all classes.

    I still think it is more an ‘anti greed’ philosphy than an aim to keep poeple poor.

  19. Ant says:

    Andrew, what is “your experience” with vote buying? I think that you overlook the point that while people can, theoretically, take money and vote for who rhey want, in practice people discuss who they vote, networks are very tight knit and even in the case of the new sub-district elections where people vote for Nay-yok OBT, the buyers of votes (hua Kanaen) are Kin, vote buyers know, can estimate and predict within a close enough range to expect certain outcomes and when these outcomes do not occur, punitive measures are taken against either the most likely recalcitrant, those that most assume to not have kept up their end of the bargain and sometimes random targets and the idea that this is a possiblity and these tactics are very effective in assuring levels of compliance. If your experience was ethnographically grounded you would also know that people are very careful who and how they take money from. The anonimity that you are ascribing to the polling box is a farcical idea as it can neither be separated from the sets of relations that the voting is taking place in, nor from the cosmological considerations that inform people’s choices, such as Nganadeeleg has pointed out. What you say here is certainly commonsensical to an Australian but when ascribed to the Thai population the question “who wouldn’t” is definitely the Thai people you are saying would act as you would. An idea born of a simplictic or distant understanding of local political processes in Thailand. Certainly a particular class version of events.

  20. Ant says:

    my point was not that the king had done anything nor that the journalists were jailed, rather that the potential for such action is an immanent reality in Thailand and a likely outcome of any critical reporting on the king . The Journalists were held in police custody and were going to be expelled until the international press got behind them and stopped it. Point is, report about the king in a negative way and you aren’t going to get away with it, nor is the article likely to see the light of day for too long, this in response to Vichai’s question regarding the journalistic evidence of the discussion regarding the failure and consequences of the Kings “innovative” projects.

    You are impossible to reason with. All of your arch nemisis list have responded to your sufficiency-economy proof question, in one form or another. No one is lying about it. Its what we think and are critiquing the concept based on the fact that we believe that it is keyed to the detriment of the poor. Further “proof” could be provided but apart from ubiquitous l’il ol me, I don’t think the others take you seriously enough to bother responding. I would say to you, what’s so hard to understand about a response to poverty or being poor of, ” learn to live within your means” as being a call for the perpetuation of poverty. It doesn’t rally the poor to aspire to more than what they have, to attempt to attain say a middle-class level of living, on the contray it tells them not to, ipso facto is keyed to keeping them poor. Do you understand?