In a new article at the Journal of Contemporary Asia website, Duncan McCargo and Peeradej Tanruangporn examine Thailand’s remarkable Nitirat, a group of mainly academic lawyers, who have intervened in legal issues resulting from the country’s decade of coups and protests.
In “Branding Dissent: Nitirat, Thailand’s Enlightened Jurists” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2015.1020563) the authors examine:
… the political role of a group of academic lawyers based at Thammasat University who have been seeking to reform various aspects of the Thai legal and judicial system. The seven-member group started out by criticising the illegality of the 2006 coup. After the 2010 crackdown against redshirt protestors, the group named itself Nitirat and started to hold seminars, draft legal proposals, and campaign to amend various laws. Nitirat has repeatedly challenged the legal and constitutional underpinnings of three key elements of the Thai state: the judiciary, the military, and the monarchy. In doing so, the group has gained a mass following, drawn mainly from those sympathetic to the “redshirt” movement which broadly supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Informally led by scholar Worajet Pakeerat, Nitirat has created a popular branding which is reflected in huge audiences for public events, and the sales of souvenirs. The article aims to answer the following questions: How does Nitirat combine the roles of legal academic and political activist? How does it differ from the traditional mode of Thai public intellectuals? How significant is the Nitirat phenomenon?