Two new articles have just been published by JCA. There remain three articles and an Introduction still in the works.
The first is by Thammasat University’s Thorn Pitidol and titled “Redefining democratic discourse in Thailand’s civil society” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2016.1164229). This is an important article, considering how civil society organisations became anti-democrats. The abstract is as follows:
Thailand’s civil society has contributed to the country’s democratic regression. Underlying this political position are redefined meanings of democracy. This article seeks to shed light on these intriguing positions and processes by exploring the democratic discourses that prevail in Thailand’s civil society and their implications. The article does this by using a case study of a network of development actors associated with a public and influential Community Organisation Development Institution (CODI) organisation. It is found that democratic discourses are associated with a preoccupation with the sense of collective identity, defined through civil society’s communitarian vision. This preoccupation influenced their political emphasis on promoting “collective virtues.” It is argued that these discourses limit the democratic potential of Thailand’s civil society in a number of ways. First, they facilitate the building of connections between civil society and conservative elites. Second, the discourses endow civil society with an organisational culture that puts emphasis on promoting the roles of “good people” who are mostly selected by those at the top of the civil society organisations that are hierarchical.
The second article is by Veerayooth Kanchoochat from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo. “Reign-seeking and the rise of the unelected in Thailand” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2016.1165857) is another important investigation of neo-liberal governance and “depoliticisation” that leads to notions of rule – reigning – by “good people.” The abstract is as follows:
This article develops the concept of “reign-seeking” to capture the unprecedented collective action of the Thai professional and official elite prior to the 2014 military coup and the establishment of a military regime. It argues that this phenomenon reflects broad and deep political dynamics, for which the dominant scholarship on authoritarianism and Thai politics cannot adequately explain. The changing incentives of these supposedly non-partisan actors are interwoven with neo-liberal governance reform driven by a desire for depoliticisation and the minimisation of rent-seeking. This idea has been rationalised in Thailand since the promulgation of the 1997 Constitution resulting in the rise of technocratic and judicial bodies designed to discipline elected politicians and political parties. However, such institutional reconfigurations have consolidated the incentive for people considering themselves to be prospective candidates to “reign” in these organisations. As evident in the 2014 coup, these unconventional political actors – academics, doctors and civil society leaders – made collective efforts to topple the elected government in exchange for gaining selection into the wide range of unelected bodies. Governance reform in Thailand has hitherto reinforced the status quo, although the article further argues that reign-seekers should be seen as contingent, rather than consistent, authoritarians.