On 21 April 2010, scholars from the ANU gathered for “Thailand on the Verge”, a panel discussion in which they shared their perspectives on the contention and violence unfolding on the streets in Bangkok. During April and May 2010, the protests and clashes between Thai state security forces and the red-shirted members of the United Democratic Front Against Dictatorship, or UDD, shook Bangkok and the entire Thai nation. At least 92 people were killed, and over 2100 injured, many seriously so. Hundreds of people were arrested and detained; some remain in detention. Even after the violence ended, the climate remained very tense — as rumor, fear, and uncertainty circulated. There has been a dramatic upsurge in the use of Article 112 — which criminalizes speech deemed to be damaging to the monarchy — and the Computer Crimes Act.

A year later, the struggle for legitimacy and the right to determine what counts as truth and who counts as a subject of politics remains. Multiple reports about the events last year have emerged – the first periodic, and as-yet-spare, report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand, led by Dr Kanit Na Nakorn, the series of reports released by the law office of Amsterdam and Peroff, the lawyer for ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra calling for a referral to the International Criminal Court, and most recently this week a comprehensive report released by Human Rights Watch. The reports have all been controversial, and all been criticized. In an article in Matichon on Tuesday, 3 May 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep commented about the Human Rights Watch report that foreign people were better off examining controversial events and violence in their own countries, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Within this context, last Thursday, 5 May 2011, seven scholars from the Australian National University gathered on the anniversary both of the violence of April-May 2010 and “Thailand on the Verge.” In super-short [10 minute] presentations, they each offer their perspectives on diverse unfolding political, economic, social, and historic events in Thailand. Topics covered include populism, the middle-income peasantry, the circulation of authoritarianism, the categories and elisions of terrorism law, the tensions along multiple borders, and the questions raised of and by a post-Rama 9 future.

Speakers included, in this order:

Professor Peter Warr, Crawford School of Economics and Government

Dr Andrew Walker, School of International, Political, and Strategic Studies

Dr Craig Reynolds, School of Culture, History and Language

Dr Mark Nolan, ANU College of Law

Dr Jane Ferguson, School of Culture, History and Language

Dr Nicholas Farrelly, School of Regulation, Justice, and Diplomacy

Dr Pongphisoot Busbarat, School of International, Political, and Strategic Studies

Listen to the audio podcast here.

Watch the YouTube vodcast here.

Many thanks to Darren Boyd in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific Outreach Office for recording and editing the audio and video of this event.