Thailand is now entering its third year of the post-2014 Military Coup d’état, led by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) with a small hope to return to a full-fledged democracy. Whilst millions of Thais believe that returning to democracy is neither in the best interests for the country, nor Thai people as a whole.

Over a decade long political divide and the disruptions of multiple street protests, in addition to endemic problems of corruption, some Thai have lost their faith in representative democracy and now look up to the authoritarian style of government under the military.

This provides a space for the military to reinforce its role and institutionalise itself as a correcting mechanism when democracy fails. The role of the military has been well accepted by millions of Thais, especially in since Mr Thaksin Shinawatra took office with a landslide victory in 2001. The 2006 Military Coup d’état removed Thaksin from office, who now lives in exile. In 2014 his sister, Ms Yingluck Shinawatra, the then Prime Minister was also removed from power by a Military Coup d’état.

After assuming power, the NCPO has highlighted that the concept of ‘Thainess’ is important for the construction of Thai democracy, whilst the concept itself remains vague and rather unclear for both Thais and foreign observers. This paper will attempt to define the so-called ‘Thainess’ with respect to its utilisation in recent Thai history. In addition, this paper will examine whether Thainess can support and reinforce the process of democratisation within Thailand. 

Bio

Dr. Titipol Phakdeewanich is a political scientist at the Faculty of Political Science at Ubon Ratchathani University, in the Province of Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. He completed his studies and research at the University of Warwick, in the United Kingdom (M.A. in International Political Economy, 1998; Ph.D. in Politics and International Relations, 2005). He was a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), at Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan (January to June, 2014. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation (CSGR), at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom (June to August, 2015).

In addition to teaching at his current faculty, Titipol has expanded his focus beyond the theoretical perspectives relating to interest groups, pressure groups, and political participation in the context of both domestic politics and international politics, and has moved more and more into an understanding of the application of theory into practice. This has involved extensive fieldwork, and in addition, the responsibility for organising a variety of projects, and active collaboration with both Thai and international institutions, and with other academics and universities within Thailand and internationally.

Through these ventures, Titipol has developed working relationships with academics, officials from various national and international institutions, and also with local activist groups in the Isan (Northeast) region of Thailand, and beyond.

Furthermore, Titipol has his op-ed articles appear in The Nation, Prachathai, and the Bangkok Post, which have tended to focus on the inter-relationships between the general political discourse, domestic political schisms including the urban-rural divide, and also the implications of the involvement of international institutions and actors in relation to Thailand, in the context of a dynamic and changing world in the early 21st century.

It has been a key component of the work of Titipol, to highlight the plight and injustice in the lives of the rural poor, and to look towards finding actual solutions to these problems, which can have a tangible positive effect on the lives of under-represented and disenfranchised groups such as these, as well as other marginalised groups within Thailand.

Although, since the 2014 military coup d’état led by the National Council for Peace and Order or NCPO, Titipol has been closely monitored by the NCPO, because of his work on democracy and human rights, but he remains committed to work to support the promotion of democracy and human rights within Thailand.