The Journal of Contemporary Asia has just published a special issue edited by Michael K. Connors and Kevin Hewison. The issue is titled – Thailand’s ‘‘Good Coup’’: the Fall of Thaksin, the Military and Democracy.
It includes articles by Thongchai Winichakul, Oliver Pye and Wolfram Schaffar, Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, Andrew Walker, Somchai Phathararathananunth, Ukrist Pathmanand, Michael K. Connors, Porphant Ouyyanont and Kevin Hewison.
As a special issue it can be ordered for US$18 from Routledge. More details from the publisher are available here.
Some of the juicy sections of the various articles are highlighted in a helpful piece by Asia Sentinel’s Daniel Ten Kate. New Mandala readers looking for a quick overview of the articles and their arguments would be well-advised to consult his write-up.[UPDATE by AW: The special issue also rates a mention in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:
The immensely complex Thai political scene is best explored by reading Paul Handley’s recent superb biography of King Bhumipol, The King Never Smiles, which is banned in Thailand, and then the intriguing special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Asia edited by the Australian specialists on Thai politics Michael Connors and Kevin Hewison. We learn that the Thai monarchy, through the Crown Property Bureau, sits on one of the world’s biggest networks of wealth, valued at $US41 billion ($47 billion ), only slightly behind those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Was Thaksin’s rise a clash of “new” and “old” capital, as some see?
Not exactly. It was more a “majoritarian” challenge by a populist prime minister with little regard for democratic niceties, who used his money and voter support to overawe the supervisory organs of state, and thereby pose a challenge, perhaps more implicit than articulated, to what La Trobe University’s Connors paints as “royal liberalism”. This was the prevailing wisdom that liberal democracy flowed from a compact between the people and modern monarchy, a ruling myth carefully nurtured by unrelenting propaganda and image-making during King Bhumipol’s rule – when he was portrayed as the serious, saxophone-playing king who loved nothing more than touring the villages. By invoking the royalty in their opposition to Thaksin’s populist rule, the urban Bangkok backers of the protest have ended up seeing their own democratic space encroached by the interests around the throne, via the new constitution.
Still, many seem happy within the limits of their royal compact, and came out to cheer King Bhumipol on public appearances this week to mark his 80th birthday, when he exhorted everyone to be “honest” and strive for national unity. The King wore a pink jacket, and pink seems to have suddenly become the new black for chic Bangkok. How the people-king compact survives the results of this election remains to be seen. Even more questions hover over the successor to King Bhumipol, who recently spent a month in hospital after an apparent stroke, as Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is reputed to be a hothead.
A majority of Thais do not seem to think the election will solve that much. Surveys have shown up to 65 per cent say they are willing to sell their vote for the usual cash or bag of rice. Funny people the Thais – voter bribery could never happen here.
New Mandala readers interested in my previous discussion of the “rural constitution” will find the full version of my article in the Journal of Contemporary Asia special issue.]