Rural democracy and the failed 2014 elections in Thailand

Two new articles have just been published by JCA in the Military, Monarchy and Repression: Assessing Thailand’s Authoritarian Turn Special Issue. There remains an Introduction still to be published.

The first article is by Prajak Kongkirati of Bangkok’s Thammasat University and is titled “Thailand’s Failed 2014 Election: The Anti-Election Movement, Violence and Democratic Breakdown” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2016.1166259).Prajak

The abstract is as follows:

Thailand’s politics is in a fragile state. A lack of consensus around basic “rules of the game” among elites and civil societal groups renders the country highly volatile and unstable. Violence has been all too evident in recent political disputes. The February 2, 2014 elections witnessed a significant change in the pattern of electoral violence. It changed from targeted killings among rival candidates to mob violence aimed at disrupting the electoral processes and institutions. The degree of violence was the highest in the country’s electoral history. Urban middle class protesters, mobilised as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) employed violent tactics to disrupt electoral voter registration, voting and vote counting activities. Six million registered voters were affected by the closure of polling stations. The PDRC’s animosity towards the election marked an unprecedented development. By disrupting the election, it rejected the peaceful and democratic way for the public to decide who should govern. The case of the PDRC movement demonstrated that activities of confrontational civil society can sometimes cause deadly conflicts and the breakdown of democracy.

The second piece is by Somchai Phatharathananunth of Mahasarakham UNiversity in Thailand’s northeast and it titled “Rural Transformations and Democracy in Northeast Thailand” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2016.1166258).

This is the abstract:

This article analyses the underlying economic, social and political processes that contributed to democratic progress in the rural areas of northeast Thailand. After the 2006 military coup villagers in the region played an important role in anti-coup activities and actively demanded for democratic rule. To defend democratic rule, villagers not only opposed military intervention but also challenged elites, who they considered had masterminded the coup. The coup was a landmark change in terms of the relationship between the highest authority in Thailand and the rural masses. According to the Thai hierarchical order, villagers are regarded as inferior who must obey the elite. Any action that does not conform to this rule is considered morally wrong and to be punished. Why did rural dwellers dare to engage openly in political action that defied the hierarchical order? To comprehend such actions the article examines structural changes in Thailand’s countryside that released villagers from traditional bonds and enabled them to engage in a new form of political mobilisation. It is argued that the emergence of a democratic movement in the rural northeast is a result of two important processes: rural socio-economic transformations and political democratisation.

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