Co-sponsored by the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and the Southeast Asia Program
The recent reversal of democracy in Thailand has been rapid, dramatic, and increasingly thorough. Generals in civilian guise now manage the country. Their coup in May restored, in effect, a Cold War-era nexus of the military, the monarchy, and the bureaucracy. That trinity thwarted communism and enabled development but fell victim to its own success, as formerly marginalized Thais became vocal stakeholders seeking better lives. Democracy and growth spawned new wealth and new players, triggering sharp conflicts among elites competing for the first time for mass support. In the fading twilight of a gloried monarch, Thai politics before and since the 2014 coup amount to a long and no-longer latent endgame over the weighting and balancing of royalty, bureaucracy, and military, and the implications for democracy. Prof. Pongsudhirak will construe the contest and assess the stakes for Thailand, Southeast Asia, and the larger world.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak is an associate professor in Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science. A prolific and prize-winning author, his latest writings include articles on Thai politics in the Journal of Democracy and on the Mekong region in Foreign Affairs. He taught at the University of Yangon earlier this year and has been a visiting scholar at, among other places, SAIS (2011) and Stanford (2010). His alma maters include the London School of Economics (PhD) and UC-Santa Barbara (BA).