Thailand is at a crossroads. On 14 May 2023, Thai voters took part in their country’s first fully free and fair election after nearly a decade under military and conservative-elite rule. The results gave a resounding victory in the 500-member House of Representatives to Thailand's two most progressive parties: the Pheu Thai Party affiliated with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the relative newcomer Move Forward Party. Exceeding even the most optimistic predictions, Move Forward won the most House seats, while the two most pro-military parties together took only 12 percent. Thai voters have conveyed their preferences. But will their votes decide who forms the government and what if any policy reforms are allowed to proceed? Looming over that question for the present is the chance of a more democratic future and the legacy of an authoritarian past.
Allen Hicken, in addition to his professorship, is affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, its Center for Political Studies, and its Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies. His work focuses on political institutions, political economy, and policymaking with an emphasis on Southeast Asia. His many publications include a recent co-authored book, Mobilizing for Elections: Patronage and Political Machines in Southeast Asia (2022). Prof. Hicken has held visiting-scholar positions in Thailand (twice), the Philippines, Singapore, and Australia. His higher degrees are from the University of California San Diego (PhD) and Columbia University (MA).
Ken Mathis Lohatepanont, alongside his doctoral studies, writes regularly for the Thai Enquirer, an English-language news website based in Bangkok. Before coming to the University of Michigan he worked for the Thailand Development Research Institute as part of its Innovation Policy for Sustainable Development Team. In that capacity he helped to generate policy recommendations as to how the Thai economy could be restructured to make it more competitive. Earlier affiliations included a stint as a Journalism Intern with the Asia Focus section of the Bangkok Post reporting and commenting on economics, politics, and business in the Asia-Pacific region. His BA in political science is from UC-Berkeley.