The recent military coup in Burma/Myanmar has quite rightly shocked and angered many ordinary people. Protests by Burmese expats and Thai democracy activists were immediately held outside the Burmese embassy in Bangkok. True to form and true to their shared interests with the Burmese military, the Thai junta ordered the police to attack this demonstration under the pretence that it was against emergency Covid laws. Two Thai activists were arrested.
The solidarity between Thai and Burmese pro-democracy activists is a beacon of hope. This is because the real hope for Burmese democracy does not lie with Aung San Suu Kyi or the West. The so-called “international community” will blow meaningless hot air over the coup, but nothing of substance will change. International sanctions have never brought about democracy. It was mass working class and youth uprisings which ended apartheid in South Africa. The same can be said about the collapse of the Stalinist states in Eastern Europe.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been cooperating with the military for the last 5 or more years under their half democracy system. In addition to this, in the 8-8-88 mass uprising against the military, she demobilised the student and workers’ movement, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and diverting the movement into a base for her electoral hopes. Burma then remained a military dictatorship for the next three decades.
Suu Kyi is also a racist, an islamophobe and a Buddhist Burmese nationalist. She cannot be trusted to lead a genuine movement for democracy.
The hope is that the new generation of young people in Burma will rise up, taking inspiration from Thailand, Hong Kong and Nigeria.
One good sign is that there are reports that hospital workers inside Burma have been taking action to protest against the coup.
The coup is an attack on freedom, despite the fact that Burma only had a sham democracy; the Burmese military’s own constitution allowed them to take total power in any so-called “emergency” and the military retained a monopoly of key ministerial posts, together with a guarantee of 25% of seats in parliament and other oppressive measures.
Right-wing political views try to push the false idea that deals by important top people and foreign powers can gradually bring about democratic change. A recent article in the New York Times implied that the development of Burmese democracy was seriously damaged because Aung San Suu Kyi failed to cooperate and compromise enough with the military [See http://nyti.ms/3cPanUD ]. In fact she spent the last five or more years compromising too much with the army.
It may be that after Suu Kyi’s landslide victory in the recent elections, the military staged their coup as a pre-emptive warning against those who might have had ideas that the military could have its power and business interests reduced through parliamentary measures.
Back in 2016 I wrote a post about mainstream views on democratisation. I wrote that:
“Recently I had a conversation with a researcher associated with the British Foreign Ministry and I was surprised and shocked to hear him say: “Burma is the most democratic country in South-east Asia”. He went on to say that the worrying thing about Burma was that Aung San Suu Kyi might be too inflexible to work with the military.” [See http://bit.ly/3jc3VrI ]
I then posed the question: “So what accounts for this absurd idea about Burma?”
“The views about democratisation among mainstream officials and politicians close to Western governments are heavily influenced by right-wing “comparative politics” theories associated with academics like Guillermo O’Donnell. For these people, democratic transition is all about the behaviour of elite factions and how they manage a stable transition to so-called democracy. In fact they are not really interested in freedom, democratic rights and social justice for the majority of the population. They are blind to and terrified of the prospect of mass movements of the working class and the poor rising up to overthrow authoritarian regimes.
Reading through political science literature about democratic transitions in the days before the overthrow of Suharto in Indonesia or before the overthrow of Marcos in the Philippines, you can see that the idea that these dictators might be overthrown by mass movements from below is totally lacking. But this is in fact, exactly what happened. The same can be said of the Arab Spring uprisings and uprisings against the military in Thailand in 1973 and 1992. And the most important social force which can push forward and develop democratisation in all these countries, including Thailand, remains mass movements of workers and the poor.”
The fact that a generalised mass uprising, involving workers, of the kind that we saw in Burma in 1988, did not get rid of the military junta in recent years, means that the military were still in control of the levers of power. Without destroying this power, the tough and poisonous vines of a full dictatorship could easily grow back.
In Thailand the military are still in control because the mass movement has not yet harnessed the power of the working class. [See “Rubber ducks cannot defeat the military” http://bit.ly/3tmU5YB ].
Both in Thailand and in Burma, we still need mass movements of young people, allied to the organised working class, in order to achieve a democratic transition. Military regimes don’t just gradually dissolve by polite negotiation.
The recent incident where Taksin’s Thai Raksa Chart party nominated Princess Ubonrut as a candidate for Prime Minister, only to be rebuffed by King Wachiralongkorn, has caused a frenzy among elite and conspiracy theorists. Foreign journalists and academics have been desperately trying to pick over the entrails of the events to look for omens. This is reminiscent of the behaviour of oracles in ancient Rome or Greece. Articles in a whole range of media publications, ranging from the New York Times to the South China Morning Post have regurgitated this nonsense. Thai politics, in the eyes of these academics and Western journalists, is quintessentially different and exotic. The most striking aspect that these commentators wish to emphasise is the supposed “child-like” and “ineffectual” nature of ordinary people in regard to Thai politics. For them, only the juicy drama of the elites really matters.
This elitist attitude was emphasised to me by a debate I had on social media with a couple of expats working in Thailand. At least one works for a media company. They basically told me that Thais “cannot think for themselves because they are denied a decent education.”
This elitist view has a long history.
In the 1960s David Wilson wrote that the 1932 revolution was merely a dispute among the elites with little popular participation. John Girling repeated this claim in his 1980s book. This view was repeated by David Morell and Chai-anan Samudavanija. Yet there is much research that shows the key involvement of ordinary people in this event.
The daddy of this right-wing elitist view was Fred Riggs, who claimed in the 1960s that Thailand was a “Bureaucratic Polity”, where politics was the exclusive preserve of the elites and totally immune from class struggle or participation from below. This became the political science bible for many conservative Thai academics.
Political Science in Thailand, up to the early 1990s, was dominated by these right wing ideas from the USA. Most mainstream academics agreed with the Structural Functionalist School of democratization. The main ideas were about building “stability” and “social norms”. The emphasis was on crafting democracy from above by enlightened academics. The “people” had to be “educated” to understand democracy. Organisations like the King Prachatipok Institute, named after Thailand’s last absolutist king, took it upon themselves to craft Thai Democracy and educate the people. Today, the Thai military junta and its supporters have maintained the need to “educate” Thai people in democracy!
Academic Thinapan Nakata wrote in 1987 that “Most Thais prefer use of absolute power. They are obedient and submissive.” My former boss at Chulalongkorn University, Suchit Bunbongkarn wrote in the same year that Thais have a “non-participatory political culture”. His aristocratic colleague Prudhisan Jumbala also wrote that “Labour associations are all created at the impetus of the bureaucracy”. I am not sure that Prudhisan had ever met an active Thai trade unionist!
In terms of how to relate to the Thai military regime, the views about democratisation among mainstream officials and politicians close to Western governments are heavily influenced by right-wing “comparative politics” theories associated with academics like Guillermo O’Donnell. For these people, democratic transition is all about the behaviour of elite factions and how they manage a stable transition to so-called democracy. They are blind to and terrified of the prospect of mass movements of the working class and the poor rising up to overthrow authoritarian regimes.
This elitist narrative lives on. In his book The King Never Smiles, Paul Handley recycled the ideas of Fred Riggs by claiming that the entire political process in Thailand since the Second World War was determined by King Pumipon, claiming that Sarit was just Pumipon’s puppet. The exact opposite was the case. Sarit and his military allies were responsible for promoting Pumipon and he was grateful and beholden to them. Handley also stated that ordinary Thai people, especially those living in the countryside, are blissfully ignorant of political events. He claimed that when Pumipon became king most Thais were uneducated, did not understand the concept of a modern state and were happy for the king to do everything for them. In fact Pumipon did very little and had no power. Handley also claimed that the 14th October 1973 uprising, when half a million students, workers and ordinary citizens drove out a military junta, was just the work of Pumipon and his advisors. Finally, Handley claimed that the 19th September 2006 coup against Taksin took place because the Palace and the military did not want Taksin to promote Wachiralongkorn as the next king over his sister Princess Sirintorn. This final statement is rather ironic in the light of recent events.
Duncan McCargo sought to explain the war in Patani and the political crisis involving various coups against Taksin’s party by claiming that it was just an elite dispute between “network monarchy” and “network Taksin”. The genuine sense of injustice felt by the Malay Muslim population of Patani or the activism of millions of Red Shirts was just written out of the plot.
In fact there is ample evidence that the crisis had deep-rooted structural causes and involved the building of the largest pro-democracy social movement in Thailand’s history. [See http://bit.ly/2bSpoF2 ]. There are also many accounts of how the struggles of ordinary people have shaped events throughout Thailand’s recent history. The writings by Katherine Bowie, Kevin Hewison, Somchai Pataratananun, Andrew Walker, Mary Beth Mills, and Bruce Missingham come to mind. [See also https://bit.ly/2SyK7ok and http://bit.ly/1TdKKYs ].
More recently the view that the elites monopolise Thai politics to the exclusion of ordinary citizens has been reproduced again by Andrew MacGregor Marshall. Eugénie Mérieau’s analysis in her paper on the “Deep State” also comes from this elite tradition. Most recently, after the events involving Ubonrut, Mérieau characterised the military junta as a military dictatorship under royal absolutist command. What is different for MacGregor Marshall and Mérieau is that unlike Riggs and the other right-wing writers, they genuinely wish to see an end to dictatorship and the building of democracy. However, their analysis is incorrect and an obstacle to this. [See https://bit.ly/2EOjsNL ].
Apart from totally ignoring the social movements, actions by ordinary citizens and the excitement among Thais generated by new political parties in the run up to the elections, the power of Wachiralongkorn is grossly exaggerated by MacGregor Marshall and Mérieau. [See https://bit.ly/2teiOzQ and https://bit.ly/2oppTvb ].
Power is not something which people can inherit in a passive manner. If Wachiralongkorn is now an “absolute monarch”, when did he rise to power by destroying his political opponents? Who was in charge during the 5 or 6 years when his father Pumipon was incapacitated and dying? Given that tyrants often get deposed when travelling abroad, why would Wachiralongkorn wish to spend most of his time living in Germany if he had ambitions to become an absolute ruler?
The nomination of Ubonrut by Taksin, was just a pathetic attempt to bargain with the military by claiming that he had a “sacred amulet” equal to the power of the military dictatorship. The power of Taksin’s sacred amulet was soon exposed to be nonsense within hours. [See https://bit.ly/2SHQrZW]. Taksin was using the princess, just like the military and the elites have used Pumipon in the past and are now using Wachiralongkorn. The elitist and conspiracy theorists totally ignored the fact that Taksin’s move had nothing to do with expanding and developing democracy, something which ordinary Thais have achieved in the past.
The real issues for most Thai citizens, as we approach Paryut’s flawed elections in a few days’ time, is how to dismantle the legacy of the military dictatorship and how to build a free and just society. No study of royal entrails will give any guidance for those seeking to carry out this immensely important task.
 David Wilson (1962) Politics in Thailand. Cornell University Press.
 John Girling (1981) Thailand. Society and politics. Cornell University Press, USA.
 David Morell & Chai-anan Samudavanija (1981) Political conflict in Thailand: reform, reaction and revolution. Oelgeschlager, Gunn & Hain.
 Fred Riggs (1966) Thailand. The modernisation of a Bureaucratic Polity. East West Press.
 Gabriel Almond & Bingham Powell (1966) Comparative Politics: a Developmental Approach. Little Brown, Boston. Gabriel Almond & Sidney Verba (1963) The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Princeton University Press. Lucian Pye & Sidney Verba (1965) Political Culture and Political Development. Princeton University Press.
 Thinapan Nakata (1987) Political Culture: Problems of Development of Democracy. In Somsakdi Xuto (ed) Government and Politics of Thailand. Oxford University Press Singapore.
 Suchit Bunbongkarn (1987) Political Institutions and Processes. In Somsakdi Xuto (ed) Government and Politics of Thailand. Oxford University Press Singapore.
 Prudhisan Jumbala (1987) Interest and Pressure Groups. . In Somsakdi Xuto (ed) Government and Politics of Thailand. Oxford University Press Singapore.
 Guillermo O’Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter, Laurence Whitehead (1986) “Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Comparative Perspectives.” JHU Press.
 Paul Handley (2006) The King Never Smiles. Yale University Press.
 Thak Chaloemtiarana (1979) Thailand: The Politics of Despotic Paternalism. Cornell University Press.
 Paul Handley (2006) “What the Thai Coup was really about” 06 November 2006 Asia Sentinel website.
 Duncan McCargo (2005) Network Monarchy and the legitimacy crisis in Thailand. The Pacific Review 18(4) December, pp 499-519.
 Katherine Bowie (1997) Rituals of national loyalty. Columbia.
 Kevin Hewison (1996) Emerging social forces in Thailand. New political and economic roles. In: Robison, R. & Goodman, D. S. G. (eds) The New Rich in Asia. Routledge, UK.
 Somchai Pataratananun (Phatharathananunth) (2006) Civil Society and Democratization. Social Movements in Northeast Thailand. NIAS press.
 Andrew Walker (2008) The rural constitution and the everyday politics of elections in northern Thailand. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 38:1, 84 -105.
 Mary Beth Mills (1999) Thai women in the global labor force. Rutgers University Press.
 Bruce Missingham (2003) The Assembly of the Poor in Thailand. Silkworm Books.
 Andrew MacGregor Marshall (2014) “A Kingdom in Crisis”. Zed Press.
 Eugénie Mérieau (2016) “Thailand’s Deep State, Royal Power and the Constitutional Court (1997–2015).” Journal of Contemporary Asia 46(3).
A few weeks ago, the Thai Conspiracy Theory networks were humming about goings on among the royals. We were told that top serving military generals were summoned to Wachiralongkorn’s villa in Germany and that the junta heads were not invited. We were told that the movement of tanks towards Lopbury was the beginnings of a military coup. There were dire warnings about a possible “civil war” between troops supposedly commanded by Wachiralongkorn and his opponents.
Yet, a less sensationalist explanation would be that the top generals were going to see the King about the final arrangements for his coronation in May, while Prayut, now a retired officer, concentrated on fixing the election. The armoured vehicle movements were part of the Cobra Gold military exercises with the US.
In terms of the civil war, we’ve been here before with similar dire warnings about a war for royal succession between the troops of Wachiralongkorn and those loyal to the Princess Siritorn (Sirindhorn). Of course this never happened.
Before this, the Thai Conspiracy Theory networks drove themselves into a climax by discussing the relationship between Ubonrut, Taksin and Wachiralongkorn. What was totally ignored was the discussion of the need for a mass social movement for democracy in order to end the legacy of Prayut’s military junta. Without such a movement, the flawed elections in March will not bring an end to the dictatorship. But this is not the kind of reality that excites and titillates the Thai Conspiracy Theory networks.
Some weeks have passed since the supposed “earth quake” in Thai politics, which resulted from the nomination of Ubonrut. But there has been no coup or civil war or attempt at a Palace Coup against Prayut. In any case, an “earth quake” in Thai politics cannot result from the petty manoeuvrings among the elites. An earth quake would look like the Arab Spring or the 14th October 1973 uprising in Bangkok or the fall of the Berlin Wall.
During the election campaign, when Sudarat Keyurapan from Pua Thai Party proposed a cut in the military budget, General Apirat Kongsompong, army chief, suggested that she listen to an ultra-right song from the 1970’s which was used to mobilise thugs to kill leftists. Apirat is the son of General Sunthorn Kongsompong, who led the 1991 coup against an elected government. The resulting junta was overthrown by mass popular protests in 1992. The reactionary tirade by General Apirat, and his father’s coup in 1991, was a symbol of the military’s wish to monopolise politics and the power struggle between the military and civilian politicians. It was certainly not a result of following orders from Wachiralongkorn!
These are uncertain times in Thai politics and it is not possible to predict what will happen after the March election. However, the military have 3 levels of action to maintain their power. The first plan is to get Prayut elected as Prime Minister with the support of the 250 military-appointed senators This means that his party only needs 126 elected MPs out of a total of 500 seats in the lower house. The second plan is to restrict the actions of any elected government not headed by Prayut, using the powers of the 20 year National Strategy and various junta appointed bodies like the judiciary and the senate. The third and most desperate action would be another military coup if the election does not give them what they want. But the choice and outcome of any of these 3 actions will not merely be decided in Prayut’s military headquarters or even in Wachiralongkorn’s German palace. It will have a real dialectic relationship with the reaction of millions of ordinary Thais.
Recently, a British socialist posted a comment on the so-called “Jewish Conspiracy”, so beloved by the Nazis. He wrote that “conspiracy theories can take hold when people find themselves incapable of explaining the malign features of our social existence and feel they lack any genuine democratic control over their daily lives. These theories act as an indispensable substitute for a genuine opposition to the real power in society.” This could equally apply to what has been happening in Thailand.
Those who are addicted to Thai conspiracy theories are not interested in helping to build a mass social movement for democracy. Those who claim that Thailand is run by Wachiralongkorn’s absolutism, which controls the military and a supposed “Deep State” are in the same boat. They dismiss the possibility that ordinary people can make “earth quake like” changes to society and instead shrink into gossip about the royals and various conspiracies. And foreign news outlets, looking for juicy exotic news about Thailand, are also happy to lap up all this nonsense. The Thai political crisis is seen as just an elite dispute and mass activity to expand the democratic space is dismissed as impossible. The result is apathy and helplessness.
But as I have previously written; “People who spend their time looking up at the view above risk stepping in dog shit”. The crisis that has divided Thai society for the last decade is about the significant changes to the social and economic conditions of millions of citizens and their unmet political aspirations.
In a previous article I wrote that… “The 1997 economic crisis exposed the material reality of the lives of most Thai citizens whose way of life had developed rapidly over many decades but which was in conflict with an unchanged and outdated “Superstructure”. This is the dynamic of conflict which was harnessed by Taksin. [See https://bit.ly/2I9WcLO ].
This crisis is part of an on-going struggle between ordinary Thai people and the elites who lord it over them. [See https://bit.ly/2SyK7ok ]. If we draw the correct lessons from the struggles of the past, we can begin to organise the overthrow these elites.
Conspiracy theories concerning the elites totally ignore these important issues and cannot begin to explain the complexities of the changes in Thai society. Instead they prefer to discuss Thai politics as though it was some kind of fairy-tale or sensational soap opera.
Now that King Wachiralongkorn has scuppered Ubonrut’s nomination as Thai Raksa Chart’s candidate for Prime Minister, it is worth looking at what the incident exposed.
Firstly, most of the analysis concentrated on the politics of the top elites without raising the question about how a military dictatorship can be brought down in order to achieve real democracy.
People who spend their time looking up at the view above risk stepping in dog shit.
So once again we had people claiming that if Ubonrut became Prime Minister that this would reinforce the supposed growing power of the “Absolute Monarchy”. They were soon proved totally wrong when it became obvious that Wachiralongkorn and Ubonrut did not see things in the same way.
Those who have always been mesmerised by the monarchy and conspiracy theories about a “New Absolutism” have been twisting their theories into a contradictory muddle. Some claim that Ubonrut “must have” consulted the king beforehand since he holds absolute power. Is this really the case?
The question which has been posed now is why Wachiralongkorn intervened to stop his elder sister from entering politics. The most likely explanation is that he was politely “ordered” to stop Ubonrut by a junta agent who pretended to grovel to him. The reality is that the military are Wachiralongkorn’s golden meal ticket. Without them, his position would be very weak. The military were very annoyed by Thai Raksa Chart’s move, which threatened their monopoly on power. If possible they would prefer not to do a power deal with Taksin, which was the aim of Ubonrut’s nomination in the first place. But Wachiralongkorn would not be threaten by Taksin at all. After all, Taksin had paid off his gambling debts in the past. It is true that the competing egos of Wachiralongkorn and Ubonrut and their wish “to be number one” might have helped to persuade Wachiralongkorn. But that was not the key issue.
Some racist foreign observers, who repeat all the conspiracy theories and are not interested in searching for the truth, just laugh smugly at the stupidity of Thai citizens and the bizarre nature of Thai politics. These people should be treated with contempt.
There were many other people who claimed that Ubonrut’s nomination was a clever chess move to beat Prayut. No sooner had they said this than the junta’s side shouted “checkmate”!! People who seek short cuts in order to win in politics often come unstuck.
After Pumipon’s death many Red Shirts deluded themselves that Wachiralongkorn would turn out to be a friend to their side and might even abolish lèse majesté! If they hadn’t already realised how wrong this myth was, they do now.
Many former Red Shirts and Taksin supporters defended Taksin and Thai Raksa Chart’s role in this chapter of the “Politics of the Sewer” because they mistakenly believe that the junta is all powerful and there is nothing that ordinary people can do.
This bring us to the main issue which has almost totally been ignored by the dog-shit-stepping, star-gazers: How can a military dictatorship be brought down in order to achieve real democracy? This is a key question because the coming elections are rigged in favour of the military and their 20 year future influence on politics. [See https://bit.ly/2RIIvrD ]. It is also a key question because most people who support Taksin’s parties want genuine democracy, even if that is not the priority for Taksin and his team.
The answer is that there are no short cuts. Ridding Thailand of military influence and building democracy means building a pro-democracy social movement which coordinates its struggle with pro-democracy parties. We know from Thai history that such a movement can be built and can be successful so long as it is not controlled by elites. If this reality is rejected and the role of ordinary citizens is denied, the result is a political farce where a royal is posed as an alternative to Prayut’s junta.
The present political crisis in Thailand has shattered a number of “democratisation” myths created over the years by mainstream political science academics.
The first myth is about “civil society”, as defined by the middle-class or the “chattering classes” and Non-Government Organisations. After the end of the Cold War we were told that a well-developed civil society and a large middle class was the key to a free and democratic society. Yet we have seen the middle-classes and the NGOs take part in many anti-democratic protests and we have seen them welcome two military coups. The middle classes have organised to protect their privileges and prevent the urban workers and rural farmers from having a say in politics. The NGOs have also behaved in a similar manner for slightly different reasons.
Middle-class academics, lawyers and doctors have joined the whistle blowing anti-democrats led by Sutep Tueksuban and his henchmen.
Marxists have always seen the middle classes as being a potential base for fascism and dictatorship. We saw this in the 1930s. They can also join pro-democracy movements at other times and support working class demands. But the middle classes are too fragmented and weak to set their own class agenda. They flip flop between the interests of the business and bureaucratic elites and the interests of the working class.
Perhaps what we can recue from the “civil society” theory of democratisation is the importance of “social movements”, but not the so-called “new social movements” which were widely touted by right-wing academics after the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe. We were told then that social movements were no longer class based and were about life-style politics and single issues, not about challenging state power. In Thailand the largest social movement in history is the red shirt movement. The red shirts are more or less classed based and have wide political aims involving democratisation and challenging the old state.
The second myth is about “independent bodies” and the need to create political structures which act as “checks and balances” on elected governments as part of the “democratic” process. This is very fashionable among Western liberals, who favour non-elected Central Banks and a non-elected, supposedly neutral, judiciary. In Thailand we have seen these so-called independent bodies, such as the Election Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the courts, subverted and used by the conservative elites in order to destroy freedom and the democratic process. These bodies have place anti-democratic fetters upon elected governments. In the European Union the European Central Bank has also played a key role in trying to place restrictions on government policies in countries like Greece.
Marxists have always maintained that no group of people in society is ever neutral or independent of class interests. It is not so-called independent bodies which check and balance elected governments. It is opposition political parties, social movements, trade unions and opposition or alternative media which perform this function.
The third myth is that democracy can only become stable and well-developed if there is a political culture of democracy among the people and if political parties and political structures are mature. But what we have seen in Thailand is that the vast majority of the population have a democratic political culture while the conservative elites do not. The army is then used by the elites to frustrate the wish for democracy. We have also seen a long established political party; the Democrat Party, stand clearly against the democratic process along with various state structures and bodies.
The fourth myth is that developing globalised capitalism and the free-market somehow encourage the growth of democracy. This has not happened at all. The globalised Thai big businesses have supported the conservative elites and the junta and its friends are extreme advocates of neo-liberal free-market policies. So is the King with his “sufficiency economy” ideology. They all have a laissez faire mind-set. In contrast, it is Taksin Shinawat and his various parties which have used a mixture of state funded development and welfare (grass-roots Keynesianism) alongside neo-liberal market forces. The conservatives have attacked this as “dangerous populism”.
The bottom line in reality is that the present crisis is a result of increased political empowerment of workers and small farmers, a phenomenon that was seized upon and encouraged by Taksin and his allies for their own interests. It is a crisis of class society with the conservative elites and middle-classes resenting the rise of the working class and the small farmers.
And what this crisis clearly shows is that strong social movements from below are the critical key to building and fighting for democracy. Every inch of the democratic space will have to be fought for and taken from the elites in this struggle. Democracy will not be crafted by committees of “wise men”, lawyers and academics who are appointed by the junta.
It is a fair bet that despite all this, Thai academics at universities and in the Prachatipok Institute will still carry on spouting these shattered and discredited democratisation theories and in a climate where the questioning of authority is discouraged, they will mainly go unchallenged.