Panel 8 - Politics and Policies

Saturday, Nov. 14, 21:50 – 23:05 (US CST)
Sunday, Nov. 15, 10:50 - 12:05 Thailand

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Katie Rainwater

Small Farmer, Big Company: Why Thailand’s Plaeng Yai (“Large Plot”) Program Won’t Revitalize Smallholder Production in the Export-Driven Shrimp Sector

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative’s Plaeng Yai (“Large Plot”) Program aims to increase the income of smallholders by amalgamating them into area- and commodity-based groups that collaborate with state and private sector partners to realize economies of scale, technology use, market access, and quality standards characteristic of large-scale operations. Implemented beginning in 2015 – by 2036, the program’s architects aim to create “large plots” on 2/3rds of Thailand’s cultivated land area, remaking farmers into producers of high value agro-inputs for a revitalized food industry. This paper draws on field work and interviews to examine how Plaeng Yai has been implemented in Thailand’s export-driven shrimp aquaculture industry. Among Thailand’s first non-traditional food exports, tens of thousands of smallholders have historically produced shrimp, but the continued viability of smallholder production has recently been threatened by disease, consolidation of corporate control over inputs, and increased competition from neighboring exporters. Plaeng Yai promotional materials suggest that smallholder production can be saved if smallholders cooperate (with one another, with the state and with agribusiness) and embrace new technologies. Yet the technical fixes promoted– intensive production in close cooperation with agribusiness, or extensive production with self-made inputs – require capital reserves (and in the second case, landholdings) beyond the means of most smallholders. By stressing that farmer attitude is the primary variable in need of transformation, the state absolves itself from addressing inequalities in access to land, capital, seed, and markets that would need to be resolved to revitalize smallholder production.

Kanjana Hubik Thepboriruk

Northern Illinois University
Phunam: The Rise of Charismatic Military Leaders during Interwar Years (1939 – 1944)

Several military regimes rose to fill the power vacuum left by deposed monarchies during the Interwar Years. Prior to Plaek Phibunsongkhram styling himself as Phunam, the regime waged a publicity campaign that glorified and defined the qualities of a Phunam (leader). This presentation examines that ways in which two military dictators, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, were portrayed in a sample of print media from 1939 – 1944 and argues that the sympathetic portrayals of these two dictators helped to justify Phibunsongkhram’s military rule as well as begin the process of mollifying and normalizing military leadership for the Thai public.

Ekasit Nunbhakdi

Thammasat University
Why and When the Generals Will Commit a Coup in Thailand?

This article proposes that despite of accusation on government’s inefficiency, corruption, and disloyalty to the monarch in fact since 1990s coups in Thailand happened because of an advance in elite’s restricted area namely a power to direct Thailand economy by elected politicians.

Though government’s efficiency and corruption could be a long discussion, but head of the last 2 toppled government, Thaksin, and Yingluck Shinawatra, never omit to please the monarch and her alliance-the generals.  Then the true main reason for the generals to commit coups lays on economic policies which reallocate resources not in line with the existing elites benefit and they foresee that the policies will decrease their power both in politics and economics.

Pasit Wongngamdee

University of Canterbury, NZ
The Guardian of the Monarchy VS The Guardian of the People: The Clash between Two Military Professionalisms in Thailand after 2014

After the cold war, the Thai military has socialised the society to accept military control over civilian. The socialisation hasintensified following 2014 coup. However, the Thai civil society and political parties have also called for the end of military control. This reflects the clash between two military professionalisms in Thailand. The first professionalism is the military’s version, which emphasises the military involvement in politics as “the guardian of the monarchy”. The second professionalism is the society’s version, which redefines the military as “the guardian of the people”. This research aims to study the contestation between these two redefinitions by examining socialisation among “Reserve Corp Students (RCS—นักศึกษาวิชาทหาร (นศท.))” in the Royal Thai Army’s “Territorial Defence Programme (TDP—หลักสูตรรักษาดินแดน (ร.ด.))”. The research hypothesises that although the military attempts to socialise the students to adopt the military’s version of professionalism, the effectiveness of such socialisation is rather limited. The limitation is caused at least by three factors: (a) the shortcoming in the programme itself, (b) the political culture of students, and (c) the growth of social media usage among students. These three factors are entwined, self-reinforcing, and promoting the role of the military as “the guardian of the people”. Hence, it signals the change in civil-military relation in Thailand, as the society’s version of professionalism is growing stronger.

Related Pre-Recorded Presentations for Panel 8

Pinsuda Wonganan

Chiang Mai University
Local Politics in a Transitional Democracy: An Inquiry into Candidate Selection in Thai Provincial Administrative Organisation and Municipality

Candidate selection is a critical step in the process of entering public office. The results of this selection process determine the composition and character of parliament and as a consequence influences the nature of the democratic system. A political party is typically responsible for nominating potential candidates based on a merit system. Yet, in Thailand, most political parties are not formally active in selecting candidates for local elections. The literature on candidate selection has focused on established democracies; however, there has been a lack of investigation into transitional democracies where legal requirements and a primary vote are absent. This paper examines the candidate selection procedure and functions of gatekeeping at the local level in Thailand. An understanding of demand and supply factors will provide insight into the candidate selection process and the relationship between national and local politics.

Rattiya Fisher

University of Phayao
Establishment of Border and Vulnerability

Over the past decade, Thailand has established several settlements situated along an area of unenforced border with neighboring countries as formal checkpoints in response to the economic development of the Greater Mekhong Subregion. Ban Huak, a village in the North of Thailand, once was a location for informal trade with residents of Sainyabuli, the adjacent Laotian province, but is now a permanent checkpoint with the aim of facilitating freedom of travel and trade to all.

The establishment of the checkpoint was first requested by local villagers in Ban Huak and local traders in Phayao, hoping to better their livelihoods through border trade and tourism. However, many of them deem the checkpoint to be the cause of difficulties in their lives.

Human security concept was applied to investigate how these residents of the border area have been impacted by the establishment of the checkpoints. Focus groups and interviews with local villagers, community leaders and government officials were conducted to explore the impact of border policy on local people.

The settlements situated along the border allowed the villagers to cultivate and access resources and create socioeconomic activities to meet their needs; but the permanent checkpoint hinders their engagement in many activities due to border crossings and custom regulations.

Border policy in Thailand has been enforced to broaden economic development opportunities at all levels, but it has also increased livelihood struggles for the poorest and most vulnerable.

Yaoping Liu

Mahidol University
The Chinese Province-Oriented Commercial Associations in Thailand: The Emerging Underminer of Sino-Thai Relationships

Since the communist China’s current leader Xi Jinping launched his signature geopolitical project “Belt and Road Initiative” in 2013, Thailand has seen a boom of Chinese commercial associations denotated by different provinces of China, such as Thai-Beijing Commercial Association, Thai-Shanxi Commercial Association, and others. Self-organized by Chinese businesspeople emigrating to Thailand in the past three decades when China rose to a world economic power, these associations claim that they have played some significant role in strengthening the Sino-Thai relationships in multiple facets, particularly in the fields of trade and commerce. Nevertheless, the growth of the Thai public’s disapproval of Chinese engagements with their country in recent years tells otherwise. As the players on the ground, the behavior of these associations, to certain extent, represent communist China’s economic-political practices abroad whether they intend to or not. The present paper attempts to explore how these Chinese province-oriented commercial associations have created a Thai public backlash against China and Chinese people even though they have indeed brought investments into Thailand. The findings suggest that the elitism, corruptness, nationalistic and money-grubbing behaviorism these Chinese associations demonstrated in Thailand serve to undermine their contributions to Sino-Thai relationships. This presentation will argue that the unfavorable behavior of these Chinese associations in Thailand present a further obstacle for China to gain the needed trust from Thailand and its people.


Kanjana Thepboriruk, Ph.D., (กัญจนา เทพบริรักษ์)
Chair, NIU Thai Studies Committee

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