Introduction: Military Intervention and State-Society Politics
The military has had a dramatic presence in the politics of
Pibul's authoritarian regime was not, as will be discussed,
a simple military dictatorship. Pibul retained the King as a constitutional monarch, as
means to provide his regime with legitimacy.
Pibul's military rule with a constitutionarch monarch -- the "Pibul
system" -- permitted, in
Pibul was ousted from power in 1944 by Pridi Banomyong, the regent and the head of the anti-Japanese Free Thai movement. Pridi presided over a period of "democracy" or civilian rule but it lasted only three years. The military returned to the political stage in 1947 and re-installed Pibul as Prime Minister. This coup represented an attempt by the military, discredited by being on the losing side of the war, to dis-lodge civilian politicians who had gained footholds in the state under Pridi.
1957, Sarit Thanarat staged
a coup against Pibul -- or against a rival military
clique, the Phin-Phao clique, as will be
discussed. He was much more
authoritarian than Pibul, and established a more
cohesive military-authoritarian order.
Like Ne Win, he abolished representative institutions and he restricted
popular access to the state. Unlike Ne
Win, however, Sarit co-opted the civilian bureaucracy
and, like Suharto, he developed a more cohesive
military-civilian bureaucratic base. Sarit had little regard for the democratic forms --
legislatures, competitive elections, and so on -- which had come to be
Sarit's successors, Thanom Kittikachorn and Praphart Charusathien, continued the "Sarit
system" and ruled as military dictators. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was
growing pressure for political participation from below. This pressure stemmed from economic
development under military tutelage and American aid. The Thanom-Praphart
regime fell in 1973, following a student-led mass uprising and a royal
intervention by the King to stop the bloodshed. When the Thanom-Praphart
military-authoritarian regime was toppled in 1973, the military lost much of
its political cohesion due to the absence of an effective authoritarian
strongman. After 1973, there was a
protracted period of transition and struggle.
This period was marked by a series of rather ineffectual military
interventions, violence, and intense conflict involving military factions,
civilian elite groups, subordinate forces, and palace factions, and the
King. For the first time in Thai
history, political elites, both conservative and radical, attempted to mobilize
the masses and win their support.
Subsequently, a substantially "democratic" order, with an open political arena, and legislative sphere, was established. This civilian interlude was presided over by Sanya Thammasak, Kukrit Pramoj and Seni Pramoj. This proved to be a politically turbulent period and consequently the military intervened again in 1976 under the leadership of Admiral Sangad Chaloryu. The military installed Thanin Kraivichien -- an authoritarian, staunchly anti-communist, and royalist civilian -- in power. He was deposed one year later by "Young Turk" officers, who put General Kriangsak Chomanand in power. In 1980, the Young Turks, the "king makers" of those years, replaced him with General Prem Tinsulanonda.
The post-1973 years, until the 1992, were marked by a struggle to define the shape of the political contours of the state. The struggle was won by the King and Prem, who favoured a democratic, constitutional order. Nonetheless, in 1991, after a decade of parliamentary rule initiated by the King and Prem, the military, led by Suchinda Kraprayoon, stepped onto the political stage once more to topple the civilian government of Chatichai Choonhavan, a former General. The military, however, was forced to step down when Suchinda had himself named Prime Minister following elections, and this resulted in public protests in May 1992 and a royal intervention by the King.
What is distinctive about Thai politics is that the political arena was, until the 1970s, characterized by an absence of the phu-noi, the small people or subordinated segments. Politics was dominated, until 1973, by the phu-yai, the big men -- especially by military strongmen-turned-rulers. In contrast, in
characteristic of Thai politics in regard to military intervention, especially,
is that, unlike in
Coups D'etat and the Politics of the State in
The patterns of military intervention in
The cycle of coups, military rule (or rule by military strongmen) and "Thai-style" parliamentary rule indicates that for all its energy, the military (or the strongman-ruler) has never been able to close down the political arena completely. Nor has it, as in
The military has had to be content with the capture of the crucial government ministeries or to hold power without assuming full responsibility. Also, it has had to respect the operational autonomy of the civilian bureaucracy, and share power with societal elites -- after the 1980s, with economic-business elites. In terms of state-society relations, the military's dominance has been and continues to be constrained by a constellation of civilian bureaucratic and non-bureaucratic elites. Nonetheless, one might also say that it has also succeeded in maintaining a system of authoritarian rule or, according to Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, an autocracy.
the ideological break with absolutistism in 1932, it
is interesting to note that the Revolution did not disrupt the initiatives set in motion by royal reforms, particularly the
centralization and concentration of power in the hands of rulers and
officials. This continuity has resulted
in the consolidation of a kind of state-society order termed by Riggs and
others as a "bureaucratic polity". What has been "normal-ized", not withstanding the 1932 Revolution, is the
entrenchment of armed and unarm-ed bureaucrats in politics. Military coups and the manipulation of
electoral processes have been, as Chai-Anan notes,
the primary forms of bureaucratic involvement in politics.
The numerous instances of military interventions, fifteen in all, makes the Thai military the most politically energetic of the armed forces examined. In contrast, there were only three interventions in
frequency of coups has created an impression that
greater complexity of military intrusion in Thai politics, compared to
Inquiring closely into the dynamics of Thai coups, they seem to fit roughly into four categories: 1) coups geared toward the reorganization of political power to make the state more authoritarian and to establish (or reestablish) military dominance; 2) coups arising from attempts to resolve problems and contradictions arising because of the democratic forms adopted by ruling military strongmen themselves and their unreformed inclinations favoring authoritarian rule; 3) coups aimed at restoring order or "saving" the state from a crisis; 4) coups stemming from factionalism between aspiring military strongmen, or arising from intra-military politics. These factional struggles usually occur when the personal ruler is suffering a political or physical decline, or alternatively when there is not a military strongman to unify the army or maintain an intra-military balance. These categories, however, are not exclusive. Coup plotters are usually motivated by mixed motives.
The first category of coups is well illustrated by the 1932 Revolution led by the Promoters. In theory, its goal was to reorganize political power in a democratic mold. Indeed, the regime attempted to present itself as effectuating a transfer of power from the king to the "people". In actuality, however, it resulted in the transfer of the monarch's power to non-royal military rulers: from the king and the aristocracy to the military ruler and civilian bureaucrats. The following coups may also be included in the first category: the 1933 Bhahon-Pibul coup which resulted in Pibul's dominance as the strongman; the 1947 Phin-Phao-Sarit coup against Pridi, aimed at restoring authoritarianism and military dominance; Sangad's coup, with the support of the Young Turks, against Seni in 1976 which restored authoritarian rule under Thanin, a civilian; and the 1991 Suchinda coup against Chatichai which terminated parliament-ary rule and attempted to restore the military's political dominance. One might also include in this category the Young Turks' coup attempts against Prem in 1981 and 1985.
In the second category of coups, strongmen-rulers strike against their own governments. This type of coup is aimed at circumventing the slow and sometimes difficult semi-democratic processes which the military strongmen have adopted to try to legitimize their rule. The second type of coup is illustrated by Sarit's coup against his protege Thanom in 1958, and Thanom's coup against his own government in 1971. Both coups were directed against difficult-to-control parliamentarians.
The third category of coups involves the restoration of order or "saving" the state from a crisis or protecting the state during a transition from one order to another. In this category, one could include Admiral Sangad's coup, with the Young Turks providing the muscles, in 1976. Sangad's coup followed a period of open, unstable, democratic politics and the massacre of student protesters by Village Scouts and the Border Patrol Police (see below). In addition, the 1932 "revolution", which entailed a transition from a monarchical to commoner joint civilian-military rule, and the 1933 Bhahol-Pibul coup, which signalled a transition from the provisional regime to a more "permanent" military order, could also be included in this category.
fourth type of coup involves intra-military politics and rivalries between
aspiring strongmen. These factional
struggles usually, but not always, occur when the military ruler is suffering a
political or physical decline or when there is not a military strongman-unifier
to maintain a balance between military factions. The following coups could be included in this
category: the 1951 Navy's "
reference to the subordination of the military to its chief-turned-ruler, the
Thai case seems to contradict this theoretical observation most of the
time. The evidence, however, indicates
that military strongmen, with the exception of Prem,
fall -- if they do -- for reasons other than because of a coup against them. During Sarit's
rule and until he died, and that of his co-successors, Thanom
and Praphart, there were no coups, except the ones
they themselves staged in 1958 and 1971 respectively, as noted above. The Thanom-Praphart
team was not overthrown by a military coup; it was ousted due to a number of
non-military, socio-economic and political factors, as will be discussed, and
because the King could no longer support them.
General Krit Sivara's
refusal to crack down on the protesters also played a significant role. Pibul had to step
down in 1944 because he had supported the Japanese, but he was not over-thrown
by a military coup. From 1947-57, Pibul was, strictly speaking, not a ruling strongman, but
more of a compromise figurehead leader of rival military factions vying for
Prem (1980-86), was the only strongman-ruler who has had to overcome two coup attempts, both by the Young Turks, in 1981 and 1985. As a democratizing (non-authoritarian) strongman, he was intent on ending
From King to Commoners: The Modernization of an Autocracy
Hong Lysa notes, Taksin and
Rama I were compelled to stimulate the economy in
order to obtain needed resources. They
were aided to a large extent by trade with
opening of the kingdom had far-reaching consequences. The reforms achieved what the colonial powers
new state was given what Thongchai Winichakul calls a "geo-body"
-- a bounded territory conforming to the European concept of modern
statehood. The new state was defined and
The royal reorganization of the state meant that there was an enlargement of the state as more common people were recruited. Thus, there arose a new body of hierarchically organized men paid by and dependent on the state, what we might call the state stratum. Because of its advantaged position and solid organizational struct-ure, the state stratum quickly became the most powerful interest group in the king-dom. Their only rivals were their masters -- the monarch, princes, and the nobility, who were few in number.
Although reforms strengthened the monarchy, there emerged in time signs of elite discontent. Even as early as 1886, a petition was submitted to the king by some Western-educated princes and officials urging the adoption of a constitution. There also arose conflicts in elite circles, between high and middle bureaucrats, with the latter feeling that promotions were blocked by the former, who were primarily princes and nobles.
reign of Rama VII (Prajadhipok,
1925-1935) was not a happy one. His
reign fell in the turbulent inter-war years and coincided with the
depression. Faced with diminishing
revenues, rising expenditures from the steady expansion of the state and the
spectre of national bankruptcy, the king reduced the budget of all ministries,
including defence, in 1926 and 1930. He
also imposed a salary tax in 1932. These measures affected the core interests of
bureaucrats who were increasingly frustrated and disenchanted with royal
absolutism. This bureaucratic discontent
established the context for the 1932 Revolution. The manifesto of the Promoters, as the revolution-aries were called, was bold and brave. It accused kings of treating the people as
animals and it asserted that
The revolution, however, was staged by a small group of official insiders. It did not involve the great mass of the Thai people. The most prominent figures of the revolution were Pridi, Pibul, Bhahon, Song Suradej, Ritti Arkhane, Prasas Pittaya-yudh, Khuang Aphaiwong and Thawee Bunyaketu. Hence, although the revolution had all the verbal trappings of a real one, it did not result in an order based on the people as promised. However, the decision to retain the King as a constitutional monarch, as one who reigns on behalf of the people, had an enduring consequence.
Although most revolutionaries establish republics, the Promoters did not. This was a wise step. After the revolution, the monarch served as a mediator in the frequent intra-bureaucratic, intra-elite struggles. The new role of the monarch as the constitutional ruler also had the effect, ironically, of making the monarchy more or less the guarantor of a constitutional order increasingly based on democratic forms. The monarch's evolving position as a supporter of democratic constitutionalism has made it difficult for any strongman-ruler since Sarit to ignore utilizing some democratic procedures. On the other hand, the autocratic aspects inherent in the monarchical form of government have also served to legitimize authoritarianism and thus the rule of strongmen.
democratic promises of the Revolution could not be fulfilled for many
reasons. First, the People's Party was
really a political club and did not possess organizational depth. Like political parties in
It was during the early years of the post-absolutist state that the threat of communism was raised. For the next five decades, the military used this fear as a handy pretext to intervene in politics. The spectre of communism stemmed from Pridi's socialistic "Economic Development Plan". He proposed the issue of state bonds in exchange for private property, and the employment by the state of citizens via a nation-wide co-operative scheme. It ran into stiff opposition and was dropped. Pridi was subsequently labelled a communist and surpassed by Pibul, his military rival. Pridi, however, played a major role in drafting
In 1933, Bhahon and Pibul, respectively the commander and deputy command-er of the armed forces, staged a coup, signifying the ascendancy of the military Prom-oters. Pibul's position was further strengthened when he put down Prince Bowaradet's coup attempt later that year. Pibul held the real power in the Bhahon regime from behind the scenes. He assumed de jure power when he was named Prime Minister by the new assembly in the elections of 1938. With the military as his power base, he proceeded to consolidate his position. He purged a number of potential rivals, impris-oned real or imagined foes, including several princes, and executed a few suspected plotters. After 1938, he was so powerful that he was widely regarded as an uncrown-ed monarch.
Pibul was very much influenced by ultranationalistic,
authoritarian European regimes and Japanese militarism --as were the young
military Thakins in
Pibul's cultural reforms and nation-building efforts were very successful because signs of it are still evident today. Indeed, he contributed immensely to the modern national identity. He inculcated a sense of "Thai-ness". On the other hand, as Chai-Anan notes, the creation of national identity is, analytically, more than a benign sangchart or "nation-building" exercise. The ordering of state-society relations -- the relative degree of state autonomy, the distribution of power, and the structure of political relationships -- involves the questions of who defines national identity and how it is defined. Thus, the creation of a national identity cannot be divorced from the ideological location of the state and the ruling or official stratum. As Chai-Anan argues, Pibul's nation-building exercise represented a project by military and bureaucratic elites to impose a form of nationhood based on supposed ethno-cultural "qualities" of the Thai "race" and to marginalize the democratic principles and the state-society order promised in the 1932 revolution.
Pibul's nation-building strategy made the Thai "race" the centerpiece of the state. Bureaucratic officials were regarded as the vanguard of the Thai nation-state and they were thus elevated above ordinary citizens. The nation, state, rulers, and the bureaucracy became merged into a single mystical entity. This fabricated entity, along with the political-cultural elevation of the state and its leaders, legitimized and normalized the authoritarian order. Political decision-making became an exclusive prerogative of the national vanguard. In short, Pibul's national formula, rather than being merely a scheme of a copycat Fuhrer or a statesman-like bestowal of Thai-ness, served to provide the bureaucratic elite, including the military, with a convincing ideology for the exercise of power, however unaccountable. Politics was once more, to quote Ruth McVey, "relocated in the state sphere, making it the main theatre of politics".
Pibul's projection of himself as a warrior-leader of a
"martial race" invariably led him to translate his
militaristic-nationalistic postures and drum-beating into action. His first incursion into modern war was in
1941, when he challenged French claims to disputed territory along
Pibul's second military escapade was less fortunate. As World War II spread to
above indicates that the state in
The Rollback of Pridi's Incipient Democracy: Pibul's Post-War Order
Pibul's alliance with
Pibul was ousted by a coalition led by Pridi
in 1944 and a new government headed by Khuang Aphaiwong was established.
By the end of the war, the Free Thai were, as Thawee
Bunyaketu claimed, able to field a -- more or less
"invisible" -- 12,000 man guerrilla force. The anti-Japanese stand of the Free Thai
movement (and assistance given to Allied agents) and the post-war support of
post-war Free Thai civilian rule represented an incipient opening for
subordinated forces to participate in politics and the affairs of the
Free Thai followers were less state-oriented, and many of the post-war
politicians were from the northeast region of Isan,
who were regarded with some derision by the
move towards democracy and parliamentary rule was particularly vexing to the
military leaders who fell with Pibul at the
conclusion of the war. These leaders
were known collectively as the "Young Lions". They played pivotal roles in the
authoritarian reorganization of the state and restoration of military
dominance. They were, to name the
prominent ones, Phin, Phao Sriyanon, Sarit and his proteges, such as Thanom, Praphart, and Krit. They, like soldiers in
civilian leaders were grappling with the complex tasks of post-war
reconstruction and lawlessness resulting from the demobilization of soldiers of
Pibul's army and Seri Thai fighters,
disgruntled officers plotted coups. They
were aided by an unexpected national trauma -- the death of young Rama VII (King Ananda) in June
1946. Rama VII
died from a gun-shot wound but it was not clear if the King had been murdered
or had committed suicide. Pridi, who became prime minister after the 1946 election,
was unable to solve the mystery -- although eight years later, three of the
King's servants were executed for his death. Pridi's
reputation as a communist did not help, and he resigned amidst charges of
regicide. The Young Lions were
November 1947, the military staged a coup, led by Phin,
Phao and Sarit. The coup ended the short interlude of
democracy and spelled the beginning of over two decades of military
dominance. The coup-makers announced
that they stood for "Nation, Religion and King." They claimed to have acted only to uphold
military honour, solve the assassination of the king, and rid the country of
corruption and communism. Pibul, who escaped being imprisoned as a war criminal
because of Pridi's refusal to humble a fellow
Promoter, was installed as Prime Minister by the coup leaders. Pibul was this time
not the "Great Leader", but a ruler squeezed between powerful rivals,
namely Sarit and Phao. His position, however, was enhanced when the
his collaboration with
Pibul's friendly relations with the
In addition to the election scandal, there were others: the Phin faction was allegedly involved in a one-billion baht timber concession linked to the Bhumipol Dam project; the government was accused of covering-up a serious drought in the Isan region by attempting to bribe Isan MPs with 53 million baht; and there were articles criticizing the monarchy in a newspaper financed by Phao. The public was disillusioned by the arbitrary use of power displayed by the governing elite, the unfettered competition for the spoils of office, and their constant obsession with money. In September, Sarit resigned as the Defence Minister and disassociated himself completely from Pibul and his regime. Sarit was thus astutely positioning himself to assume office by exploiting the public disenchantment with the political system.
above analysis indicates that military's incursion into politics in 1947 was,
as suggested in the theoretical discussion, propelled, as in Burma and
Indonesia, by the military's perception that disorderly elements and forces
(usually portrayed as communist), were endangering the stability of the
state. This perception was height-ened by the suspicious death of King Ananda. The incursion of the military was aimed, as
suggested in the theoretical framework, at "saving" the state,
restoring order, and reestablishing military
Field Marshal Sarit: The Consolidation of Thai-Style Authoritarianism
Sarit was a soldiers' soldier but he was also a consummate politician. Until he was ready to seize power in 1957, he remained in the background, quietly reorganiz-ing the military and making it his personal instrument of power. The military thus became subordinate to Sarit, the new strongman-ruler. It remained subordinate, moreover, to Sarit's co-successors, Thanom and Praphart.
Sarit was better able to gauge the public mood than his rivals. He knew what he wanted and he obtained it by manipulating the public's anti-regime sentiments. He attempted to legitimize his usurpation of office by claiming that he acted on the behest of the media and in the people's interests. He also claimed to be defending the constitution and democracy from the corrupt phu-yai, the political big men. Finally, he presented himself as the man best able to stop communism, which he warned endangered the monarchy, Buddhism, and Thai values -- the usual "Nation, Religion, King" formula. In effect, he echoed the promises of the 1932 Revolution to bolster his position.
Before he was ready to seize power, Sarit cunningly left the task of restoring public order to Phao, his arch rival and the chief of police. Phao's support base was the powerful paramilitary police force, whose strength rivalled that of the army, largely as a result of American aid. Phao was pivotal in the regime's consolidation of power: he destroyed the Seri Thai, eliminated potential rivals, repressed the opposition, and generally struck fear in the populace by police terror. Hence, Phao reaped popular hatred and scorn, but not Sarit.
Sarit was adept at exploiting, but also enhancing, the crown. Soon after coming to power, Sarit obtained a royal appointment as "Defender of the Capital". In contrast to the 1932 generation, Sarit had genuine respect for the monarchy. He also correctly assessed that it was, as a fount of legitimacy, an asset rather than a threat. Sarit created an aura of glamour and romance by associating his rule with the pomp and ceremony of the monarchy. His task was made easier by the presence of the dynamic young King, Bumiphol Adulyadej, and his vibrant consort, Queen Sirikit.
After seizing power, Sarit was content to leave the Pibul system of state-society relations in place for a time. After purging Phao's followers and reorganizing the Navy and Air Force, he left the country for an entire year to receive medical attention abroad. In his absence, he left the task of ruling the country to his protege, Thanom Kittikachorn. Thanom, however, proved unable to cope with Parliament, both on the government and opposition sides. His government, Sarit's clients in particular and the military in general, was in danger of being dislodged from power by Parliament.
October 1958, Sarit returned to
Sarit was deeply conservative, obsessed with order,
neatness, spiritual and physical cleanliness and propriety. He regarded democracy, with its contending
parties and politicians, competing thoughts and conflicting prescriptions, as
untidy and dangerous. His vision of
political order was hierarchical. The
nation and govern-ment, chart and ratthaban respectively, were located at the apex of
his worldview, followed by the official or Kharatchakan
class, and the people, the Prachachon, at the
base. In this paternalistic vision, rulers and
officials were like wise parents who, for the sake of order, were obliged to
promote the well-being of their children, the people. This pattern of rule -- the Ramkhamhaeng model -- was based on Luang
Wichit's reconstruction of Ramkhamhaeng's
Sarit was a true believer of the Ramkhamhaeng
ideal. He toured the country frequently
and he became conversant with the concerns of "the people", the phu- noi or the
small people. He strove to alleviate
their hardships. For example, he lowered
electricity, water, telephone rates and school tuition fees and he abolished
fees for other social services. He tried
to improve public transit and he provided free textbooks and health care. He ordered the navy to supply consumers with
cheap coconuts and he encouraged the development of open-air markets in
Sarit also pledged to eliminate a plethora of socially undesirable elements. He made it a point to be on the scene of big fires and personally "investigated" their causes. In consequence, he had five Chinese publicly executed for arson. His fixation with fires may have stemmed from a personal quirk, but it also successfully portrayed him as a protector-avenger of the people. In addition to arsonists, Sarit identified a number of groups as undesirable -- hooligans, drug-pushers, addicts, prostitutes, pedicab peddlers, beggars, lepers, unrepentant politicians, supposed Isan separatists, non-conforming intellectuals, critical thinkers or writers, alleged commun-ists, hippies and stray dogs. Undesirable elements were often arrested and many were dealt with decisively.
The success of Sarit's leadership formula can be gauged from the fact that a yearning for a Sarit-like leader still prevails in some quarters. Sarit is remembered fondly by many people as a firm leader who cared for the phu-noi, despite posthum-ous revelations of his corrupt ways. After his death, it was learned that he had accum-ulated a fortune of over $20 million, owned shares in forty-five enterprises, possessed vast land-holdings, and maintained a harem of wives.
The most important contribution Sarit made to Thai politics was, what Thak calls, "a dualistic type of leadership": the King (and the monarchy) was elevated as a sacred embodiment of the nation and its glorious past, while the strongman exercised real power. As the monarchy remained popular in many segments of Thai society, Sarit's ability to reconcile the monarchy with non-monarchical personal rule provided him with a significant degree of legitimacy. In this regard, he was much more successful than Pibul. It was very difficult for the opposition to mobilize the people, especially the peasantry, against a regime identified with the monarchy.
The promotion of the monarchy as a unifying symbol situated above politics was a brilliant strategy which allowed Sarit to exercise power as if he were a king. But the use of the monarchy has also had its disadvantages for would-be strongmen. Over time, the monarchy has increasingly come to be associated with constitutional rule -- as opposed to military dictatorship. The notion of a constitutional monarchy, especially the notion that soldiers, including military strongmen, are servants of the crown, subverted the military's claim to a monopoly of power. This constrained them from pushing aside other servants of the crown, particularly the civilian bureaucrats, and also other subjects of the King. It may even be argued that the monarchy, paradoxically, kept the quasi-democratic promises of the Revolution alive. This eventually led to the political eclipse of the military when the monarchy over time accumulated much de facto power and the King became, as will be discussed, the savior of the country at a time of great turmoil and communist victories in adjacent countries to the East.
The above account supports the suggestion offered in the theoretical analysis regarding the pivotal role of ruling strongmen in shaping the contours and structures of military-authoritarian regimes. The centrality of military strongmen will yield -- because of differences in strategy adopted, personal character and agenda, styles -- different kinds of military regimes. The regimes established by Pibul and Sarit were vastly different. Although they both accepted and honored the constitutional monarchy, they manipulated it in different ways, just as Sukarno and Suharto worked with the 1945 Constitution in different ways. Although Pibul ruled as the chief officer of the King, he did not rejuvenate the monarchy, as did Sarit. However, Pibul's late regard for constitutional principles when he was losing power provided social forces a certain degree of autonomy from the state and consequently a certain ability to influence the state. In short, the state was somewhat malleable during Pibul's tenure. This is the crucial feature of the "Pibul system".
contrast, Sarit ignored democratic forms of
governance. His regime was personalistic and dictatorial, perhaps even despotic. His power base was the official stratum, the kharatchakarn, both armed and unarmed, especially
the former. Sarit
projected himself as a father-ruler of the phu-noi,
and they consequently revered him. One
might even say that, in many ways, he usurped the role of the monarch. He could not, however, and did not want to,
eliminate the monarchy because he relied upon it to boost his legitimacy and
sanction his grip on power. The pattern
of state-society relations that emerged during Sarit's
rule was mixed. On the one hand, his
state was highly repressive; social forces were provided no space to articulate
their concerns. In this regard, Sarit's state may be considered highly autonomous from
society. On the other hand, Sarit was also responsive to the needs of the business
class and the underprivileged segments of Thai society, albeit it in the most
The 1973 October Revolution and the Fall of the "Sarit System"
Sarit recognized the value of economic development. He adopted a two-pronged strategy. The private sector, foreign and domestic, was entrusted with economic growth along the profit-making route, while the state provided security and the institutional infrastructure. The first five-year National Economic Plan was adopted in 1961. The government created the Board of Investment and the Industrial Development Corporation to oversee the development process. The introduction of the Industrial Investment Promotion Act encouraged and protected investments through tariffs, tax holidays, and lower duties. In the interest of a stable investment climate, the state prohibited strikes and unions. The state also provided roads, a national communication network, and educational infrastructures. Most importantly, it undertook anti-communist rural development projects to enhance security, protect commerce and investment, and to facilitate their expansion beyond
a result of Sarit's anti-communist development
After Sarit's death in 1963, his co-successors, Thanom and Praphat, continued ruling with the "Sarit system". However, the "Sarit system" without Sarit was quite different, as will be shown. As the theory predicts, it is the strongman-ruler, rather than the system, which is pivotal. In 1968, the constitution earlier promised by Sarit was finally promulgated. An election was held and won by the regime-sponsored UTPP (United Thai People's Party). Thanom was selected as the non-elected Prime Minister, as allowed by the new Constitution. The new constitution signalled a return to the "Pibul system". However, as in 1957-1958 when he ruled temporarily, Thanom again proved unable to manage his own MPs. Thus, in 1971, he staged a coup against himself. He immediately dissolved Parliament and banned political parties. In short, he re-established the "Sarit system".
Sarit system, however, no longer "met the needs
of the present, and certainly did not promise to meet those of the
future". Economic development had changed the
socio-economic landscape. The inflexible
political structure of Thanom’s regime, like Ne Win's
rigid BSPP structure, only fueled resentment. The middle classes, which had attained a
comfortable lifestyle in the new economy, were particularly disenchanted. Educated youth, in addition, were
increasingly troubled by dismal employment prospects. They also became skeptical
of the "Nation, Religion, and King" formula that the regime continued
to propagate. Youth disenchantment with
the regime in
At the same time, conservative elites became concerned with the prospect of an indefinite power monopoly by the Thanom-Praphat clique. The grooming of Thanom's son, Narong, as successor, was seen as a possible non-royal dynasty in formation. This prospect was regarded as a presumptuous challenge to the monarchy. Military men were also alienated by the Narong factor. They believed that their careers were being blocked by Narong's ambitions and the rise of his clique. Thanom's regime was unable to manage these contending factors. The regime began to unravel in October 1973 when the left-leaning and quite radical National Students Centre of Thailand (NSCT) organized protests against despotic rule. The students demanded the termination of military rule and insisted upon the adoption of a democratic constitution. In short, they called for the fulfillment of the ideals of the 1932 Revolution.
The student's protest precipitated a violent confrontation with the regime. Much blood was shed but the violence was mercifully cut short when King, in effect, exiled the tyrants. Thanom's fate was sealed when Krit Sivara and Prasert Ruchira-wong, the commander of the army and the chief of police respectively, refused to repress the protests. After the crisis, the King appointed Sanya Thammasak, a former supreme court justice, as interim Prime Minister.
above account highlights the themes discussed in the theoretical chapters
concerning the possible outcomes of protracted military-authoritarian
rule. When the state becomes too
autonomous from society, it may become less able to resolve the challenges
posed by economic change. The emergence
of new social groups resulting from economic development may place new demands
on the state that the regime is unable to meet.
Over time, furthermore, intra-elite tensions and rivalries may
and Praphart were not unifiers as Sarit
had been, and the military was increasingly divided.
The analysis here shows that the Thanom regime was unable to accommodate the demands of middle class students. Conservative elites and military factions were alienated by the Narong factor. In short, the Thanom regime was unable to maintain its ruling coalition nor coopt new social groups. The regime thus collapsed.
The three years after the fall of the Thanom-Praphart regime were turbulent years. They were marked by the "intrusion" of long suppressed, newly politicized subordinated forces -- peasants, urban labour, and students -- into politics. This democratic interlude began when the King appointed a National Convention to function as an interim governing assembly. In 1974, a new constitution was adopted by the interim National Assembly, and an election contested by 42 parties was held a year later. Seni's Democrats won the most seats but he was unable to form a stable coalition. Instead, a coalition headed by Seni's brother, Kukrit Pramoj and his Social Action Party (SAP), was formed. He skilfully managed to maintain order in an increasingly polarized society.
1973, the military was, as Chai-anan observed, like a
firm without "its president and executive vice-president". It was divided into factions: the Krit faction;
the Air Force-Navy faction of Admiral Sangad (and Air
Chief Marshals Dawee Chulasap
and Kamol Dechatunga); Thanom-Praphat loyalists led by Yos
Thephasdin; and the Supreme Command faction of Kriangsak and Saiyud Kerdpol. The
military, however, was in disrepute after years of corrupt rule and it now
found itself excluded from politics. It
was in no position, especially with the reduced American presence after the
task of maintaining order fell on the shoulders of the monarchy -- in
particular -- and royalist leaders, the civilian bureaucracy, especially the
Ministry of the Interior, the police and special military-security
agencies. All of these agencies were
linked to various palace factions. The
realignment of global forces in the region complicated the task of maintaining
order. After the Americans lost the war
the aftermath of the toppling of the "Sarit
system", the hitherto subordinated forces took advantage of their entrance
in to the political system to press their demands. The subordinated forces were led, or
encouraged, by university students, especially the NSCT. Student activists were iconoclastic, and
sceptical of the prevailing "truths" imposed upon Thai society by the
ruling elite. They were inspired by
ideals of a society free of exploitation and corruption,
and embraced the thoughts of Jit Phumisak,
an early Thai Marxist. They were pivotal in enlarging access to the
political arena to previously excluded groups.
Consequently, labour unions organized frequent, and often violent, strikes to improve wages and working conditions. Kukrit consequently enacted laws to protect labour and he increased the daily wage rate. The peasantry also began to organize and defend their interests against local officials, moneylenders, landlords, and the Bangkok-centric policies. They formed the first nation-wide peasant organization, the Farmer's Federation of Thailand (FFT). Kukrit responded to their demonstrations and petitions by implementing various rural reform laws. Rural elites were naturally highly alarmed by the emergence of peasant activism.
With the military sidelined and discredited, the monarchy was forced to become in active political player in the political arena. The monarchy's main concern during those uncertain years was to prevent the rise of communism. Its most crucial task was to win over the middle classes and the peasant masses. This was vital in view of the challenge posed to the state by the emergence of radical student and peasant organizations. In those precarious years, the King and Queen toured the country widely to touch base with the peasants. The King also worked closely with the civilian bureaucracy and the less visible agencies of the armed forces, especially the Internal Security Operations Center (ISOC) and the BPP (Border Patrol Police, a paramilitary police force), and made effective use of military-owned radio and television stations. The King consequently succeeded in rallying the "patriotic silent-majority".
The royal palace, furthermore, sponsored or sanctioned the formation of right-wing mass organizations dedicated to the defense of "Nation, Religion, and King." These organizations included the Nawaphon, the Red Gaur, and the Village Scouts. The Village Scouts were the most important of these organizations. Its role was to mobilize the peasant masses in support of the state -- or as put to the peasants, in defence of the monarchy. Village Scouts units were organized and supervised by the Ministry of Interior, and led by village headmen, the rural elites, and rural school teachers. The organization was unabashedly nationalist. It promoted Thai culture, and endeavoured to eliminate foreign communist influences. Most notably, it warned of the dangers of Chinese-Vietnamese-Khmer communism and other treasonous lackeys or nak-phendin, i.e., "those uselessly weighing down the earth".
The upper segments of society, with much to lose from the political intrusion of subordinated forces and the strengthening of the left, rallied around the King and the "Nation, Religion and King" formula. Under royal leadership, military and bureaucratic elites orchestrated a mass mobilization campaign to win back the populace. Their campaign relied upon jingoistic, anti-communist slogans which, as noted above, portrayed students and other activists as communist dupes and anti-monarchical (and hence, anti-Thai).
mobilization of society by elites and counter-elites gave rise to a highly
polarized political environment. This
political polarization, coupled with sporadic violence, provided the military
another opportunity to intervene in the political system. In January 1976, Krit,
the leader of the dominant military faction, demanded that Kukrit
call new elections. Kukrit
capitulated and after the elections, Seni formed a
new government with Krit as the Minister of Defense. Krit appeared to be position-ed as the emergent strongman,
but he unexpectedly died. In October of
1976, Seni was deposed by Admiral Sangad
Chaloryu after a bloodbath at
Seni had been placed in an untenable situation by Thanom's return. On
the one hand, the King had granted Thanom, now a
Buddhist monk, royal refuge. On the
other hand, however, student activists demanded his immediate expulsion. The students organized a protest at
above analysis demonstrates that the collapse of the Thanom-Praphart
order in 1973 was quite different from the regime changes in
military intervention in 1976 was an attempt to restore order and authoritarian
rule. However, the 1976 coup was
supported by radical Young Turks, who, as field grade officers, were not part
of upper echelon of the military hierarchy.
Because they did not control the armed forces, they were unable to
re-establish the military's political dominance, nor re-establish the "Sarit system" -- as suggested in the theoretical
analysis. The best they could do was
play the role of "king-makers", as will be shown below.
The Politics of Transition in the 1980s: The Monarchy, Prem, and the Young Turks
Thanin Kraivichien, who the military installed in power in 1976 -- and who was the King's choice -- proved to be a disaster. He was a fanatical cold-war warrior, obsessed by perceived communist threats. He cracked down on peasant and labour leaders and anybody else who looked like a communist. Thanin's approach intended to generate more American aid, frightened domestic and foreign investors. Even the conservative elite became uneasy with Thanin, who seemed to be relying too heavily on the departed Americans, who had by this time become disillusioned with fighting a land war in
In March 1977, Chalard Hiransiri attempted to topple Thanin, and remove Admiral Sangad's faction from the dominance it enjoyed. Chalard's failure, however, did not deter others who were disillusioned with Thanin. The Young Turk officers, who were instrumental in putting Thanin in power in 1976, were now determined to oust him. They constantly lobbied their military superiors to remove him. In October 1977, they finally staged their own coup and installed Kriangsak as the new head of government.
Young Turk phenomenon represents quite a fundamental change in the power
configuration of the Thai military.
After 1973, the balance of power gradually shifted downward to regiment
and battalion commanders, while general officers became less powerful. As Chai-Anan notes,
this change was a result of a fragment-ation of power
at the apex of the military and the politicization of
field grade officers. The Young Turks,
furthermore, were generally impatient and less subservient officers. They had served in counter-insurgency
campaigns and fought in
The ideology of the Young Turks was quite contradictory, which explains their rude impact on politics. They shared a purported concern for the underdog. Their radicalism, however, was subverted by their structural position -- and conviction -- as special guardians of the state. They believed the state stood above politics and they accepted the sacred Trinity of "Nation, Religion, and King". They also believed that military intervention in politics was a normal part of their professional duty. Thus, the politicization of the Young Turks and their perceived duty to enter politics to sweep away corruption, made them a force to be reckoned with in this time of political uncertainty. They were particularly prominent for about a decade, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. They acted more as king-makers and spoilers rather than as rulers. They were instrumental in putting Thanin, Kriangsak, and Prem in power. However, they failed to dislodge Prem in 1981 and 1985, when he was perceived as betraying their ideals. The political role of the Young Turks was complicated by their reverence for the monarchy, and by the fact that Prem was their mentor.
Thai politics in the 1980s was dominated by a conflict between the monarch and Prem on one side and the Young Turks on the other side. The conflict was not so much about basic values -- Nation, Religion, and King -- but about the organization of political power and the methods to bring about political change. The Young Turks were firmly wedded to the notion of political change via coups, despite their supposed loyalty to the crown. By contrast, the crown increasingly preferred orderly change by constitutional means.
In the early years of his reign, though, the King was unable to uphold the constitution or to prevent coups. He often legitimized coups by recognizing strongmen-rulers after they seized power. However, by the 1970s, the King and Queen had survived many military strongmen and numerous constitutions. In the October Uprising of 1973, the King finally had sufficient influence to intervene and resolve the crisis. The King's interventions in 1973 and 1976 greatly boosted his stature and reinforced the impression that monarch was the nation's saviour.
monarchy also played, as noted, a pivotal role in rallying the state stratum
and the socio-economic elite in the years following the collapse of the "Sarit system". The
King skillfully guided
As mentioned, the monarchy by itself could not always prevent coups or oppose extraconstitutional actions. The king has had to accept many political actions of the military as fait accompli. The limitations of the King's power in this respect were evident with Suchinda's coup against Chatichai Choonhavan in 1991, and the toppling of Suchinda's technically constitutional government by extra-constitutional mass action in May 1992. The monarch's ability to guarantee the constitutional order is also, to a quite large extent, dependent upon the availability of a leader who understands intra-military politics. Prem, who became prime minister in 1980, was precisely such a man. Although a military man -- in fact, a defacto military strong-man-- and very soft-spoken and seemingly apolitical, Prem was a superb politician. He successfully juggled the diverse interests of contending political parties, various parliamentary coalitions, cabinet cliques, and competing military factions during his eight-year tenure as Prime Minister. He also remained loyal to the crown, which earned him full royal support.
It was precisely Prem's skill as a politician which caused the Young Turks to turn against him in 1981. The Young Turks were disturbed by what they viewed as political instability flourishing under Prem's leadership, especially allegations of government corruption surrounding sugar and oil purchases. They were also highly displeased by the extension of Prem's tenure as Army Commander (Prem was re-appointed by the King at the request of General Arthit Kamlangek). They were further angered by the appointment of Sudsai Hasdin to the cabinet -- Sudsai was a personal friend of Prem, the godfather of the ultra-rightist Red Gaur, and regarded by the Young Turks as a corrupt opportunist. In short, the Young Turks believed that they had been sidelined from the political process.
April Fool's Day 1981, the Young Turks staged a coup with a force strong enough
to vanquish any opponent they encountered.
However, the Royal family, with Prem in tow,
flew to Korat, leaving the Young Turks in precarious
The above account lends strong credence to the theoretical observation which holds that military intervention will be unsuccessful in the absence of political cohesion forged by a military strongman-unifier. The Young Turks were the most dominant, most cohesive, and most dynamic military faction to arise, and for a while were able to "enthrone" the leader of their choice in the seat of power. But they were unable to reorganize power as the military in the past had been able to do. The difference was that the military under authoritarian leaders, such as Pibul and Sarit, was unified. The man chosen by the Young Turks, Prem, as their mentor and leader, proved, however, to be a different kind of strongman -- as will be shown below.
Prem and the Politics of Military Factionalism
Prem regained power after the counter-coup, but the military continued to believe it had a duty to assume the reins of political power to protect the nation in times of crisis. The military's political views are contained in orders No.65/2523 (1980) and No.66/2523 (1982). The line drawn in the West between civilians and soldiers was viewed as artificial. As in
The defeat of the Young Turks in 1981 was not interpreted by the military as a significant watershed in state-military relations. Instead, it was understood by Suchinda's Class 5 group in a conventional manner. They viewed it as an opportunity to fill positions vacated by the Young Turks. Indeed, after saving the regime, they believed it was their turn to shape politics. Suchinda's group, unlike the Young Turks, were conventional soldiers and they cultivated linkages with the phu-yai. By 1984, its members controlled all key divisions, while some served in the upper echelon of the state apparatus, for example, as top aides in the Prime Minister's Office and the ministries of interior and defence. In short order, the Suchinda group became indispensable to the top military brass, especially Prem and Arthit, but also to Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth and Pichit Kullavanij.
In addition to having to deal with the "Young Turks", Prem also had to maintain control over the military as a whole. Prem's tenure was made more difficult by the rise of Arthit, the hero of the 1981 counterattack against the Young Turks. By 1983, Arthit was Army Commander and concurrently Supreme Commander. Sarit and Thanom were the only men who had previously held both positions concurrent-ly. For Arthit, a soldier of humble background, this was a remarkable achievement. Many people expected that Arthit, a strongman-in-the-wing, would become the next prime minister. There was wide speculation that Arthit was being groomed for such a role by a palace faction. This impression was reinforced by his daily television appearances, often with members of the royal family. Arthit was not the only big man lurking in the wings. Prem also had to contend with veteran leaders Kukrit, Chatichai, Kriangsak, and Parmarn Adireksan, among others. While he was fending off potential rivals, Prem also had to manage the normal political instability generated by squabbling parliamentarians and politicking cabinet ministers. Severe economic problems were also emerging, such as a chronic government deficit, a balance of payment problem, falling commodity prices, sluggish investment, and a global economic downturn.
September 1985, Prem was challenged by a coup attempt
by Manoon Rupekachorn, a
cashiered colonel and a leader of the Young Turks. Manoon timed the
coup superbly: Prem
was on a visit to
Manoon coup is thus, like
Prem displayed an uncanny ability to foil the military and
to prevent soldiers from assuming power.
He also managed to govern without employing the military to solve
problems (although his government included some appointed military and civilian
proved to be a particularly skilled player of intra-military politics. Although he owed his position initially to
the Young Turks, he subsequently cultivated close ties with their main rivals, Suchinda's Class 5 group, and he also successfully
controlled Arthit's ambition to become the next Prime
Prem deftly played these three factions against one another. For example, the coup attempt by the Young Turks in 1981 was foiled by Arthit and Suchinda's group. Prem also pitted Chaovalit (a Prem loyalist and later, mentor of Suchinda's group) against Pichit (a staunch Arthit supporter). Arthit's bid to extend his tenure as army commander for the second time, which Prem was reluctant to grant, was opposed by his former allies, the Suchinda group, and in 1986, with Chaovalit's and Suchinda's support, Prem dismissed the increasingly ambitious Arthit.
Prem's mastery of intra-military politics was such that he was able to keep the military in the barracks and control their political ambitions. He must therefore be credited for laying the groundwork to end the Thai political tradition of alternating unstable parliamentary rule with authoritarian military rule. However, he received little reward for his accomplishment. Instead, his tolerance for the vicissitudes of parliamentary politics and his willingness to negotiate political solutions -- his democratic orientation -- earned him the reputation of being indecisive, dull, and weak.
In the Thai case, the reorganization of political power in a democratic direction was accomplished by two actors with different but complementary political resources. Prem, on the one hand, had the ability to manipulate and control various political factions in the military. On the other hand, the King, who worked closely with Prem, provided the source of legitimacy. His distaste for coups and a general preference for parliamentary politics, coupled with Prem's ingenuity, increased their autonomy from the military. This enabled the King and Prem to foil the military's attempt to re-assert itself and reorganize political power in an authoritarian direction.
shown this far, the trajectory of politics in
The Military and "Soft" Democracy: Suchinda's Coup and Aftermath
Prem retired in 1988 following elections, and was succeeded by Chatichai, leader of the Chart Thai party, as head of a coalition government. The military, it seemed, was willing, as Yos Santasombat notes, to leave the field of politics to "professional politicians". Many politicians were businessmen linked to a complicated web of patrons and clients inside and outside the state structures. A number of politicians were involved in shady business deals. Indeed, prominent members of Chatichai's cabinet were tycoon financiers who were tainted with scandals. In fact, his cabinet was frequently referred to as the "buffet cabinet", for "browsing on the tastier parts of the economy". For example, the minister of the interior, Banharn Silpaarcha, was accused of conducting shady deals in connection with the skytrain mass transit project in
Chatichai's free-market policies were appreciated by big
business and industry, but long-term issues were ignored, however. Education and health services were not
improved. Problems related to land
tenure, rural dislocation, and environmental degradation were allowed to
accumulate. Industrial pollution,
chaotic traffic, floods, and overcrowding in
The public, tired of political corruption, welcomed the coup, but Suchinda's position was evidently not very strong. For one thing, there was some doubt about Suchinda's standing with the King. The coup leaders felt compelled, with the King's urging, to appoint a civilian prime minister, Anand Panyarachun, who was adamant that soldiers not be involved in politics. Anand also vetoed a request for a large arms purchase, and ensured that fresh elections were held in 1992 as promised.
Suchinda's downfall came soon after the 1992
elections. After promising that he would
never accept the prime ministership, he did so on
being nominated by a pro-military parliamentary coalition. Suchinda's
acceptance violated the broad consensus established following Prem's tenure that a Prime Minister should be elected. Although Suchinda
was appointed by Parliament, it did not sit well with the public, especially in
Suchinda seemed to be undoing the democratization process previously initiated by Prem and the King. Anti-Suchinda forces soon coalesced and widespread protests broke out in May 1992. The protests gathered strength when the former governor of Bangkok, Chamlong Srimuang, a former Young Turk -- a faction which Suchinda's group had displaced -- staged a hunger strike. Suchinda responded with harsh repression, which was captured on video and seen worldwide. This action was condemned globally, and the King intervened to remove Suchinda from power.
The military's intrusion into politics under Suchinda's incompetent leadership was a disaster. The military was further humiliated by Anand during his second stint as caretaking Prime Minister in 1992-93. He swiftly dropped the four top Class 5 leaders from their positions. The military's acceptance of Anand's appointment by the King also suggests the military may have finally realized that the King is opposed to its participation in politics. Also, the fact that the public accepted the King's choice of a non-MP, Anand -- after mass demonstrations against a non-elected Prime Minister -- shows the credibility and esteem accorded to the King, and indicates the extent to which the King has become a pivotal political force.
has clearly experienced, unlike Burma and Indonesia, a substantive re-alignment
of political power. It is likely that
the foundation of democratic politics, laid by the King, with assistance from Prem and Anand, will grow
stronger. With the monarchy actively
involved in promoting democratic constitutionalism, it will be difficult for
the military to dominate politics. If
the military wishes to regain full political control, it will probably need to
stage a republican revolution, or at the very least wait for the passage of the
present King from the scene.
The King has now truly become a "father-of-the-nation" figure and, for most Thais, stands as a sacred symbol of the Thai state and nationhood. He has become a force with whom almost all groups and actors in society -- the military, the bureaucracy, political parties and their respective leaders, social leaders, business-financial elites, religious figures and leaders, peasants, students, even reformers -- are linked. He represents, and tries to speak for, all Thais. In this respect, one might say that the King has gained a position of pre-eminence to which all military strongmen everywhere aspire, but rarely attain. In an ironic way, the decision of the "revolution-ary" Promoters in 1932 to retain the monarchy as a powerless, legitimating device, and Sarit's rejuvenation of the institution in the late 1950s and early 1960s, has served to undermine the system of rule by military strongmen, and military-authoritarianism, the subject of this study. Unless the King for some reason wants it (for example, to save the monarchy from a republician reformer), it is now very unlikely that another strongman like Sarit or Pibul, or the kind of system which they employed, will emerge again in Thailand.
The Consolidation of "Thai Democracy" and the Politics of Business Elites
It seems that a state-society order based on democratic electoral politics has been stabilized in the 1990s, as can be seen from the constitutional, albeit frequent, changes of government. A coalition led by Chuan Leekpai and the Democrats governed without much disturbance from the military, until it was replaced, via an election in 1995, by a new coalition headed by Banharn's Chart Thai. The Banharn government was replaced after an election in 1996 by a coalition headed by Chaovalit, a former military chief, and his New Aspiration Party (NAP).
Although the ghost of military intrusion has possibly been put to rest, the expectations of further democratization engendered by the May 1992 "people's power" uprising have not been fulfilled, in the opinion of Kusuma Snitwongse. Chai-Anan even argues that the victory of the middle class over the military cannot be interpreted as a fundamental break with authoritarianism. Rather, the realignment of politics in a more open democratic mold represents a compromise between the military-civilian components of the state, on the one hand, and top elements of the capital-holding elites, on the other hand.
Benedict Anderson's thoughts on "Thai democracy" are illuminating. He argues that Thai democracy is a system that mostly serves the interest of "the all ambitious, prosperous and self-confident bourgeoisies". Electoral politics "maximizes their power and minimizes that of their competitors" and best protects their interests against both the state and popular forces. Moreover, the democratic system gives provincial businessmen the opportunity" to short circuit the Ministry of the Interior's powerful, territorially-based hierarchy" by becoming MPs and ministers. Finally, since the most crucial resource in democratic politics is money, a commodity that the capital-holding elites hold in abundance, they can hope to buy political power.
politics has become a politics of spoils, with political entrepreneurs
jockeying for power and for the benefits that accrue from the control of
ministries and state projects. Political
reforms have been blocked by deeply entrenched bureaucratic forces. Indeed, the bureaucratic elite has forged
profitable linkages with the business community. A new, and potentially insidious, governing
arrangement seems to have developed. The
business elite, which controls the Thai economy, now dominates the open
political institutions, parties and Parliament, and this elite rewards its
allies in the bureaucracy from private payrolls. Politics has become, as Sulak
Sivaraksa, a veteran human rights leader and
long-time democrat, puts it, kanmuang turakij, which means roughly "politics for
businessmen, by businessmen",
which may be an exaggeration, but not too far from the truth either.
The picture of state autonomy in Thailand is more complex. The state, on one hand, appears to be highly malleable by one part of Thai society -- the bureaucratic-social-business elite groups. But on the other hand, it is essentially unresponsive to, and still insulated from ordinary citizens and their interests and concerns in many ways. The success of Thai democratization will depend on the degree to which political power is devolved downwards, into the hands of ordinary citizens. More importantly, it will depend to a large extent on the degree to which the state can be insulated from the private preferences and agendas of power-holders, bureaucrats, and the economic elites and their patronage networks.
Many people in Thailand fear that there is a growing gap between politicians and the public. Politicians are increasingly seen as uninterested in resolving problems that adversely affect the lives of ordinary citizens. The public now believes that the political system affords them little protection from the dominant economic interests and they are afraid of the new criminal elements linked to the political power-brokers. The Thai experience suggests that democratization is more complex than simply evicting soldiers from public office. While
E N D N O T E S -----------------------------------------
 Two comments on Thai names are necessary. First, there is no standardize transliteration to English of Thai names. For example, Bhahon Yothin is also spelled Pahol Yothin, and Pibul may be spelled as Phibul or as Bibul, even Pibun or Phibun. I will thus choose one spelling and adopt it throughout the thesis. Second, following Thai usage, after the mention of his/her full name, I will use the first name only.
 David Morell and Chai-Anan Samudvanija note that Members of Parliament were in the 1930s, and even more so in the 1960s, unwilling to observe party discipline, were quite assertive and often voiced the interests of their constituents, thereby causing trouble for the government. The legislature was frequently abolished as a result. The military closed the legislature eight times between 1933 and 1991. See David Morell and Chai-Anan Samudavanija, Political Conflicts in Thailand: Reform, Reaction, and Revolution (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Oelgeschlager, Gunn & Hain, Publishers, Inc., 1981), p. 5.
 An autocracy is a state-society arrangement where the non-elites are excluded from politics, and where "decision making is concentrated and unlimited at the apex" of the political system. See, Carl J. Friedrich and Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965), p. 8.
 As Riggs puts it, "the major transformation of the polity was not the 1932 revolution, but the bureaucratic reorganization" of the reforming monarchs; Fred W.Riggs, Thailand: The Modernization of a Bureaucratic Polity (Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1966), p. 379. Also see John L. S. Girling, The Bureaucratic Polity in Modernizing Societies (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1981). It should be noted that the term "bureaucratic" does not, in this case, connote the impersonal legal-rational bureaucracy associated with Max Weber's well-known formulation. As Riggs indicates, the orientation of the Thai bureaucrat is such that inefficiency, indecision, and ambiguity are not so much signs of an inability to master Western methods, as a reflection that the Thai bureaucracy is a political arena in which struggles for advantage and power among civilian and military occur; Riggs, Thailand, pp. 328-61.
 Chai-Anan Samudavanija, "Thailand: A Stable Demi-Democracy", Larry Diamond, Juan Linz, Seymour Lipset, eds., Democracy in Developing Countries: Asia (3) (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1989), pp. 305-346.
coups that failed were Prince Bowaradet's royalist
counter-coup in October 1933; the 1949
directed "Grand Palace" counter-coup by Pridi's
supporters, and the 1951 "Manhattan" coup by the Navy at the Phin-Phao-Sarit clique. In 1977, there was a coup attempt
by Chalard Hiranyasiri
against Thanin (aimed at Admiral Sangad's
clique). In 1981 and 1985, the Young
Turks attempted to topple Prem, their former mentor,
but they were foiled. In the first
instance, they were thwarted by an overt show of royal support for Prem, and on the second occasion by a rival military
faction, the Suchinda group.
 For a critical analysis of premodern Southeast Asian kingdoms, see Renee Hagesteijn, Circles of Kings: Political Dynamics in Early Continental Southeast Asia (Dordretch: Foris Publications, 1989). For Siam, see Charnvit Kasetsiri, "Thai Historiography from Ancient Times to the Modern Period," in Anthony Reid and David Marr, eds., Perceptions of the Past in Southeast Asia (Singapore: Heineman Educational Books, 1979), pp. 156-170; Charnvit Kasetsiri, The Rise of Ayudhya: A History of Siam in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1976); also see Riggs, Thailand, p.65-88. Some pioneering works were less critical in their interpretations of dynastic histories: they are W. A. R. Wood, A History of Siam (Bangkok: Siam Barnakich Press, 1933); H. G. Quaritch Wales, Ancient Siamese Government and Administration (New York: Paragon Books, 1965); K. P. Landon, Siam in Transition (New York: Greenwood Press, 1939). Some later scholars have also portrayed the early Siamese states as possessing a centralized government with bureaucratic organizations; see, Walter Vella, The Impact of the West on Government in Thailand, p. 322; James N. Mosel, "Thai Administrative Behaviour", in William J. Siffin, ed., Toward the Comparative Study of Public Administration (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957), p. 287; and David A. Wilson, Politics in Thailand (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1962), p. 95. Some prominent Thais have contributed to the entrenchment of a nationalistic history; see Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, The Fundamentals of History, Society and Politics (Bangkok: Thammasat University, 1973); Prince Chula Chakrabongse, Lords of Life: A History of the Kings of Thailand (London: Alvin Redman, 1967).
 For account of the transformation of the political economy of
 Although so-called "objective conditions" do shape the histories of states and polities, the personal-ities and qualities of individual rulers cannot be ignored. This is especially true in systems of personal rule. For example, Burman kings -- Bagyidaw, Mindon and Thibaw, contemporaries of Nangklao, Mongkut and Chulalongkorn -- all faced the same "objective conditions", i.e., British and French press-ure for trade access. Yet the response in
 The opening of Thailand to the West had a number of consequences: it led to the monetarization of the economy; it linked peasant producers to the global market economy, and it created an incipient pool of free labour; it opened up the economy to foreign, mostly Chinese, traders and entrepreneurs, thus creating a Chinese commercial stratum; and it led to the creation of a new tax system. For an analysis of these changes, see Akin Rabibhadana, The Organization of Thai Society in the Early
 The Bowring Treaty treaty has been hailed as a diplomatic triumph that "saved"
 The reforms initiated by Rama V (Chulalongkorn) are mentioned in most works on
 Thongchai Winnichakul, Siam Mapped: A History of a Geo-Body of a Nation (Honolulu: Univers-ity of Hawaii Press, 1992), pp. 1-19, 81-94. He argues that territorial identity, or the possession of a "geo-body," essential to Thai nationhood, dates only from the end of the 19th century when France and Britain settled boundary ambiguities of the states in Southeast Asia (as elsewhere) by applying Western concept of international borders. For a dissenting view regarding Thongchai's argument, see Gehan Wijeyewardene, "The Frontiers of Thailand", in Craig J. Reynolds, ed., National Identity and Its Defenders:
 The unification of the kingdom also meant that the sub-rulers of local principalities lost power, if not their semi-royal status. For accounts of Bangkok's extension of power over Northern Thailand, see M. R. Rujaya Abhakorn, "Changes in the Administrative System of the Northern Thai States, 1884-1908"; and Suthep Soonthornpasuch, "Socio-cultural and Political Changes in Northern Thailand: The Impact of Western Colonial Expansion (1850 -1920)", papers presented at the Seminar on Changes in Northern Thailand and Shan State, 1886-1940, Payab College, Chiangmai, June 20-25, 1983.
After Chulalongkorn's death (1910), there were
demands from the official class to widen the base of power. These were
manifested in a coup attempt in 1912 against Rama VI
(Vajiravudh, 1910-1925); a memorandum in 1917 from Prince Chakrabongse, the King's brother, urging the adoption of a
con-stitution; and discussions in higher circles
about the need for further reforms and democracy. Democ-ratization
was opposed in the turn of the century for a number of reasons. It was argued
that the peasant majority were not interested in public affairs or that they were not yet sufficiently educated,
that parliamentary politics was "Western" and incompatible with
Siamese "qualities". Fears were also expressed that the Chinese might
dominate Parliament. See, Chai-Anan, "Political
History", pp. 28-30; Thak Chaloemtiarana,
ed., Thai Politics: Extracts and Documents, 1932-1957 (Bangkok: Thammasat
University Press, 1978); Benjamin Batson,
 Although state expenditure had decreased by almost 20 million baht below the 1926 level, there was still a deficit of 2 million baht in 1931; see Virginia Thompson, Thailand: The New Siam (New York: Macmillan, 1941), p. 59.
 Thawee Bunyaketu served in various capacities for both Pibul Songkhram and Sarit Thanarat, the two most well-known modern Thai dictators. He also wrote insightfully of his experience. See, Nai Thawee Bunyaketu, "The 1932 Coup: Before and After", in Jayanta K. Ray, ed., Portraits of Thai Politics (New Delhi: Orient Longman Ltd., 1972), pp. 63-143. For a comprehensive account of prominent Promoters, see Joseph J. Wright, Jr., The Balancing Act: A History of Modern Thailand (Bangkok: Asia Books, 1991), pp. 59-183. Both Pibul and Pridi are adequately covered in all works on modern
 The students were counting on the monarch to back them when they came out on the streets to demand the end of military rule in 1973. The demonstrators rallied in front of the
 Pridi, however, accomplished much behind the scenes. He modernized the legal system, founded
 My account of Pibul as supreme leader is based largely on Wright, The Balancing Act, pp. 80-115, 171-190. An interesting account of Pibul is also provided by his wife; see Lady Laiad Pibulsong-khram, "The Early Years and the Revolution of 1932", in Ray, ed., Portraits, pp. 191-217. Also see, B. J. Terwiel, Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkhram (Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1980).
 B. J. Terwiel, "Thai Nationalism and Identity: Popular Themes of the 1930s", in Craig J.Reynolds, ed., National Identity, pp. 133-151. As observed by Terwiel, early Thai nationalist intellectuals, such as Luang Wichit Wathakan and Chamrat Sarawisut, were much inspired by Japanese militarism. He also notes that fascism was quite pervasive in
 The term
 Luang Wichit Watthakan
 The reconstruction of an ethnic nation situated in antiquity, with a seamless historical-organic con-tinuity to the present, is a device commonly employed by ethnonationalist movements. Terwiel links the construction of a nationalist Thai history to early Western accounts of Thai culture, especially W. C. Dodd, a missionary, who wrote a book on the Tai-Thai race in 1923, and W. A. R. Wood, who published a work on
 Ruth McVey, "The Beamtenstaat in
 The question of why the monarchy was retained
 Pridi's role in the anti-Japanese resistance and the Free Thai is well covered; see John B. Haseman, The Thai Resistance Movement During the War (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1978); Thamsook Numnonda, Thailand During the Japanese Military Presen-ce, 1941-1945 (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1977); Andrew Gilchrist, Bangkok Top Secret (London: Hutchinson, 1970).
 According to Thawee, the war ended just as the Free Thai guerrillas became fully trained, and thus they did not engage in any combat; see, Thawee, "The 1932 Coup", p. 105. Haseman states, however, that Free Thai forces did carry out several ambushes against demoralized Japanese troops; Haseman, The Thai Resistance, p. 137. The Free Thai forces were certainly not strong or well-organized, since they were nowhere in sight when Pridi's Free Thai government was toppled in 1947 by former pro-Japanese military leaders, such as Phin, Phao, and Sarit, among others.
 King Prachadipok abdicated in 1935, and was succeeded by Rama VIII (King Ananda), who was only thirteen years old. He had spent most his time studying in
 Pridi's fate was similar to other anti-Japanese resistance leaders -- Cheng Peng (
 Phao's terror tactics are comprehensively covered by
 Prior to the Sarit years, the monarchy was shunted aside because the Promoters were essentially anti-monarchist. They chose to retain the monarchy for expediency. Sarit did not belong to the Promoters' generation and thus he was not affected by their anti-monarchy sentiments. This view of Sarit's relationship with the monarchy is widely held among elite elements in
 Sarit headed the following agencies when he was Prime Minister: the Budget Office, the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, the Civil Service Subcommission, the National Educational Council, the National University Council, and the National Research Council; see,
 While Sarit targeted numerous "disorderly elements," only the communists and Isan secessionists were eliminated. The others are still thriving. For example, pedicabs have been motorized and are even more numerous. In addition, there are motorcycle "taxis" which weave recklessly among jam-packed vehicles and contribute to
 Among the businesses established to service American soldiers on leave from the Vietnam war were hotels, nightclubs, massage parlours, restaurants, coffee shops, giftshops, jewellers, taxi services, and other nefarious establishments. Many of the jobs created by these industries were of an illicit nature, such as prostitutes and pimps, strippers, dance hostesses, maids, cooks, housekeepers, hired wives, as well as waiters and waitresses, money-changers, tailors, clerks, construction laborers, body guards, and drivers. For an analysis of the impact of economic growth on class formation and job patterns around
 In the 1960s, the population grew by one million people per year. Student enrollment in 1972 was 100,000 in 17 universities, compared to 15,000 in 5 universities in 1961. Exports of manufactured goods rose from 1.4 percent of total manufacture in 1960 to 68 percent in 1970. There were also changes in the workforce composition. For example, the increase in administrative, executive/manag-erial positions was 941 percent in 1970 (compared to 1960); the increase in clerical/sales workers was 37 percent; in the non-agricultural sector it was 156 percent; the service sector increased by 73 percent. These figures are found in Likhit, Demi-Democracy, pp. 177-186. Also see, T. H. Silcock, Thailand: Social and Economic Studies in Development (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1967).
 Among wealthy conservatives in Chiangmai, where I lived from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, the Narong factor was a catalyst in arousing anti-regime sentiments. Ordinary citizens initially greeted Narong's anti-corruption rhetoric with hopeful enthusiasm, but they grew disillusioned as it became apparent that he was more interested in squeezing the corrupt than prosecuting them. It is said by many that he extorted money from Chiangmai's informal moneylenders, mostly Chinese and Sikh merchants. Unfortunately for the co-dictators, Thanom was widely perceived as weak and not very bright, while Praphart was regarded as highly corrupt. There were jokes about Thanom's simple-mindedness that circulated in Chiangmai's cocktail circuit in the early 1970s. For an analysis of the Narong factor, see Likhit, Demi-Democracy, pp. 192-199.
 The 1973 October uprising was well covered by Thai and international media. A detailed ground-level account and analysis of the uprising is to be found in Ross Prizzia and
 The aim of the constitutional drafting body, according to Morell and Chai-Anan, was to create a clear separation of executive-legislative functions and to strengthen legislative autonomy. The draft constitution stipulated that the prime minister and the cabinet should be from Parliament and that they should not concurrently serve in the bureaucracy or private corporations. The Senate was to be elected by the lower House, not appointed. However, the Interim National Assembly, which was charged with ratifying the constitution, was composed of old guard conservatives -- 50 percent were civil, police and military officials, and 16 percent businessmen, bankers, and doctors. The Interim National Assembly amended the constitution to provide for a government appointed Senate and they permitted half the cabinet to be filled from the armed forces or the bureaucracy. For details, see Morell and Chai-Anan, Political Conflicts, pp. 99-108.
 Ibid., pp. 109-110. It is interesting to note that the four major parties, which won over 100 of the 269 seats, were linked to the military bloc, either the Thanom-Praphat or the older Phin-Phao faction. For example, Praman Adireksan, an ex-General and wealthy industrialist, and Chatichai Choonhavan, also an ex-General and diplomat, co-leaders of the Chart Thai party, were respectively Phin's son-in-law and son. Prasit Kanchanawat, a wealthy banker, connected to the Praphart faction, led the Social Nationalist party. Thawitt Klinpratum, a veteran politician and leader of the Social Justice Party, was a protege of Air Chief Marshal Dawee Chulasap, a prominent figure in the Thanom-Praphart regime.
 American military aid jumped up to $98 million in 1977 after Sangad's coup and fell again to $38 million in 1978. See Marian Mallet, "Causes and Consequences of the October 1976 Coup", in Turton, et al, eds.,
 Ibid. For example, Japanese investment plunged to $423 million in 1975, from $750 million in 1974; foreign capital outflow in dividends, profits, and loan repayments rose to $60 million from $28 million in 1974. There was also a flight of local capital to
 Student leaders who gained prominence included Thirayuth Boonme, Seksan Prasertkul, Jiranan Pitpreecha, Wichai Bamrungrit, and Pridi Boonsue. Short biographies on radical student leaders who joined the Communist Party of Thailand in 1975-1976 and who later returned from the jungle may be found in Yuangrat Wedel, The Thai Radicals and the Communist Party (Singapore: Maruzen Asia, nd), see Appendix C, pp. 65-72. For a critical analysis of the student movement, see Morell and Chai-Anan, Political Conflicts, pp. 137-179.
 Jit was a radical historian and poet. He died in 1966 under suspicious circumstances. His most influential work was published in 1957 under the pseudonym, Somsamai Srisootarapan. The book, written in Thai, was entitled Chomna Sakdina Thai, which translates to The Face of Thai Feudalism (Bangkok: Chomrom Nangsue Sangtawan, 1976). He, like other early Thai Marxists, argued that literature, art, and religion were tools used by the "oppressing class" to maintain a corrupt system of government. For an analysis of Jit's work, see Chai-Anan Samudavanija, Sakdina Kab Phattanakarn Sang-Khom Thai (Bangkok: Numaksorn Press, 1976). This title may be translated as Feudalism and the Development of Thai Society.
 Prominent labour leaders during those years included Prasit Chaiyo, Therdphum Chaidee, Jittisak Chumnummani, Paisan Thawatchainand, Saad Chandi, and Arom Pongpangan. For a history of labour in
 The minimum wage was officially raised from 16 baht in 1972 to 20 baht in 1974, but real wages remained was much lower than the official figure. There was an over-supply of labor due to a large pool of rural unemployed. Meanwhile, the average profit rate in the industrial sector averaged 117 percent yearly, and in some industries, notably textiles, beverages, and oil refining, it was as high as 1000 percent. See Morell and Chai-Anan, Political Conflicts, pp. 193-195.
 The Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) and its allies in neighhbouring countries had less altruistic objectives than the student activists. While the students genuinely desired political reform, the main goal of the CPT was to obtain power. The CPT clashed with the students and their allies, organized labour and peasants. Many student radicals and their allies fled to the "jungle" after the 1976 Thammasat massacres. The CPT collapsed in the early 1980s, mainly due to the Chinese-Vietnamese split. After the collapse of the CPT, the urban radicals felt it was safe to return from the jungles, due partly to the government's lenient treatment of defecting former rebels. For a fuller account of the clash between the young idealists and the dogmatic CPT, see Yuangrat Wedel, The Thai Radicals, pp. 23-49.
 Nawapol was composed of businessmen, urban elites, and state officials. The Red Gaur was made up of ex-mercenaries from the anti-communist campaigns in
Included in the "nak-phendin"
category were radical students, communists, labour union leaders, peasant
leaders, and left-leaning intellectuals. The term was quite effective in
de-humanizing and demonizing these groups. Peasants
from Northern Thai villages who took part, as Village Scouts, in the 1976
recall that the authencity of the picture of the
"Crown Prince" (depicted as being hanged) was questioned by many
Thais. Quite a few security-intelligence officer accquaintences
had their doubts, but were quite cynical about the matter of its authencity. It so happened that the student who was
"hanged" in a skit -- representing a victim of military brutality --
slightly resembled the Crown Prince. As with everything connected with the
Royal family, however tenuous, there has been no discussion about or inquiry
into the matter.
 For accounts of rightist violence and the Thammasat massacre, see Benedict Anderson, "With-drawal Symptoms:
Social and Cultural Aspects of the October 6 Coup", Bulletin of
Concerned Asian Scholars, 9:3, 1977, pp. 13-30; "The Toll of
Terror", FEER, 12 March 1976, pp. 8-9; "Clampdown on the Left
Begins", FEER, 23 April 1976, pp. 25-26; "Thanom:
The Unwanted Catalyst", FEER, 15 October 1976, pp. 12-14;
"October Revolution Part II", FEER, 15 October 1976, pp.
10-11. Also, "A Nightmare of
Lynching and Burning", Time Magazine,
 Thanin was a judge who also dabbled in astrology. I was told by Dr. Kraisri Nimmanahaeminda, who was closely accquainted with Thanin, that he was frequently consulted by a member of the Palace.
 Likhit, Demi-Democracy, p.204. For analyses of the Thanin interlude, see Montri Chenvidyakarn, "One Year of Civilian Authoritarian Rule in
 The Young Turks were informally organized as the "Young Military Officers Group". They formed in late 1973 around six officers, graduates of Class 7. (Classes are designated around graduating groups officers according to the
 The Young Turks numbered about 50 officers in total, including 12 regiment commanders, 11 battalion commanders, and some staff officers. See Suchit Bunbongkarn, The Military in Thai Politics, 1981-1986 (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1987), p. 13.
 Prem was a staunch royalist but he was not part of the
 The King stated in 1977 that he did not wish to have
 Suchinda was nominated by legislators from a coalition of pro-military political parties. Suchinda's prime ministership was therefore "legal" and procedurally correct. It was the legitimacy of the constitution drafted by the 1991 coup-makers that allowed his nomination was in question. See William A. Callahan, "Astrology, Video, and the Democratic Spirit: Reading the Symbolic Politics of
 The relevant military factions in the early 1980s were the Young Turks; the Class 5 group of Suchinda Kraprayoon; the Democratic Soldiers, mostly staff officers in counter-insurgency planning; and the top brass, such as Generals Arthit Kamlangek and Pichit Kullavanij, both with close ties to the palace, and Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth, a Prem loyalist.
 The rivalry was between coalition partners,
the Social Action Party (led by Boonchu Rojana-sathien, a tycoon-banker) and Chart Thai (led by
ex-Generals, Chatichai Choonhavan,
a tycoon, and Praman Adireksan,
a tycoon-industrialist). The former accused the latter of receiving kickbacks
from a sugar purchase and sabotaging an oil deal with
 Arthit supported Prem's extension as military chief as a strategy designed to keep more senior officers from filling the post until it was Arthit's turn. In short, Prem agreed, at least tacitly, to hold the post for Arthit. In exchange, Arthit would ensure that the military stayed out of politics. The Young Turks were aware of Arthit's calculations, and they were furious with Prem for indulging Arthit's ambitions.
 The Young Turks wanted Prem to lead the coup against himself. However, the Queen, on Arthit's advice, summoned Prem to the palace. He then flew with the Royal family to Korat, the stronghold of Arthit and Suchinda's Class 5 faction. This sealed the defeat of the coup.
 This order is associated with General Chaovalit and the counter-insurgency, national security wing. See, Suchit, The Military; Appendix 2 contains excerpts of Prime Minister's Order No.66/ 2523, "Policy of Struggle to Win Over Communism", p.90-93; and Appendix 3 contains excerpts of Prime Minister's Order No.65 /2525, "Plan For Political Offensive", pp. 94-99.
 For the military's nationwide developmental-security and political mobilization activities, see Suchit, The Military, pp. 49-67. See also, Kusuma Snitwongse, "Thai Government Response to Armed Communist and Separatist Movement", in Chandran Jeshurun, ed., Governments and Rebellions in Southeast Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1985), pp. 247-272.
 I was living in Chiangmai when Arthit's star was on the rise. Television was inundated with images of Arthit escorting the Queen or the Crown Prince to various royal events, or the Queen and the Crown Prince honouring him by their presence at functions sponsored by him. There were also rumours about Arthit and various palace factions which cannot be revealed at this time. There were also rumours of friction between Arthit and Prem.
 About a dozen people were killed in the ill-fated 1985 coup attempt, mostly non-combatants, including two foreign journalists. For accounts of the coup attempt, see "
 Journalists and scholars were informed by the government that there would be serious repercussions if further inquires were made concerning the trials of those accused in the 1985 coup attempt. This information was obtained and confirmed during interviews in March-April 1993 with the following people: Anusorn Thavassin (editor); Singhadej Pengrai (businessman), Damnoen Garden (lawyer); Kanit Wanakamol (civil servant); Kamsing Srinawk (writer); Sulak Sivaraksa (writer); Kusuma Snitwongse (academic); Suchit Bunbongkarn (academic); Chai-Anan Samudavanija (academic); Maheson Kasemsant (former General), and Bangkok-based correspondents for Asiaweek and the Far Eastern Economic Review.
 The Mae Chamoi fund offered an annual 78 percent dividend, and claimed to be based on an "oil importing" scheme. For accounts of the fund, see "The Pyramid Chits", FEER (
 The "Mae Chamoi" affair was a national event and there was considerable speculation about who was protecting her. I was living in Chiangmai at the time, and the "Mae Chamoi" affair was an enormous media event. It was talked about everywhere, by almost everyone. Also see, "Arthit Beats the Retreat", FEER (
 Kittivutho preached that it was not a demerit to kill communists. An account of Kittivutho is given in Charles F. Keyes, "Political Crisis and Militant Buddhism in Contemporary Thailand", in Bardwell Smith, ed., Religion and the Legitimation of Power in
 An intriguing aspect of the 1985 coup plot was the puzzling action of General Pichit, a strong Arthit supporter closely linked to the royal palace, or a palace faction. On the day of the coup, instead of going to the counter-coup command, he went to a camp near the coup headquarters. This fact, however, has been glossed over in official accounts of the coup. In 1983, Pichit was involved with Arthit in an unsuccessful move to amend the 1978 constitution. They attempted to extend a temporary clause which permitted officials to be concurrently nominated as prime minister and to the cabinet. However, as in the "Mae Chamoi" case, no links were established between Pichit and the coup. For Pichit's actions during the 1985 attempted coup, see Wright, The Balancing Act, pp. 294-95. Although Arthit was never implicated in the coup, Prem dismissed him as Army Chief in May 1986. Prem was apparently concerned by Arthit's close involvement with anti-Prem parliamentarians and his mobilizat-ion of army voters for the forthcoming elections. Arthit's acceptance of his dismissal suggests that Prem was supported in this matter by the King, and that Suchinda's Class 5 group, Arthit's former ally, had deserted him. Prem replaced Arthit with Chaovalit. See Suchit, The Military, p. 45.
 For an account of intra-military rivalries and Prem's skill at intra-military politics, see Wright, The Balancing Act, pp. 293, 308
 Yos Santasombat, "Leadership and Security in Modern Thai Politics", in Mohammed Ayoob and Chai-Anan Samudavanija, eds., Leadership Perceptions and National Security (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Study, 1989), pp. 83-109.
 See "That's Rich", The Economist,
 Banharn, heading the Chart Thai party, became the Prime Minister of a coalition government after the 1995 election. However, in September 1996, he resigned after he was abandoned by many of his parliamentary supporters (or coalition partners). It is generally believed that Banharn and Chart Thai owed their triumph to vote buying. As such, not much was expected from Banharn's government of tycoons except bigger scandals and more corruption. This expectation was largely fulfilled.
 Montri was the Minister of Communications and the leader of a coalition partner, the Social Action Party. Sanan was the Minister of Agriculture and the leader of another coalition partner, the Democrats.
 The following ministers in Chaovalit's cabinet also figured prominently in Chatichai's cabinet (1988-1991): Montree Pongpanit, Snoh Thienthong, and Korn Danaransi. All three men were branded "unusually rich" by the military, with the implication that they had amassed their wealth by corruption. With few exceptions, ministers in the present Chaovalit's cabinet have served in at least two of the four governments since Prem's resignation in 1988, including Suchinda's short-lived government. For a list and profile of Chaovalit's cabinet, see The Nation (
 For example, Suchinda, who succeeded Chaovalit as Army Commander in March 1990, was rebuffed by both the government and the lower House when it passed a social security bill despite his objections. Chaovalit, then Minister of Defence, angrily resigned in June 1990 after being accused of corruption.
 On Arthit's dismissal by Prem, see Suchit, The Military, p. 45. Arthit was Suchinda's mentor and ally. Together they defeated the Young Turks in 1981 and 1985. Arthit, however, fell out of favour in May 1986; see note #106.
 See "Civilian Clout", FEER (
 Suchinda's willingness to appoint shady characters to his cabinet indicates the extent of his weakness vis-à-vis the influential tycoon-politician cliques. See, "That's Rich", The Economist,
 Key Class 5 men included, Air Chief Marshall Kaset Rojananil (Supreme Commander), General Issarapong Noonpakdi (Army commander), Viroj Sangsanit (deputy Army commander), and Chai-narong Noonpakee (head of the strategic Capital Command). See, "Anand Takes a Sweep For Democracy", The Economist,
 Many things can go wrong in politics, especially in the
 Kusuma Snitwongse, "
 Benedict Anderson, "Murder and Progress in Modern
 Ibid., p. 40.
 The police system, for example, is in dire need of reform. Rampant corruption and criminality of the police has not been curbed. This is highlighted by the five year-old Saudi Arabian jewel-theft case. The case began in 1990 when jewelries worth US$20 million belonging to the son of the Saudi King were stolen. This sordid affair now involves the killing of three diplomats, the disappearance of a Saudi businessman, and the murder of the wife and son of a witness. The slow police investigation has fueled rumours that "influential figures" much higher than police generals are involved. Top police officers have been officially implicated in the case. In July 1995, some of the jewelry was recovered and returned, placating the Saudis to some extent. See, "Curse of the Jewels", FEER (
Source: Interview with Sulak Sivaraksa in
The term "kanmuang turakij"
to describe politics in its current form is widely used in
 This account is based on ongoing communications with knowledgeable persons in Thailand, including Acharn Sulak Sivaraksa, a prominent human rights activist, writers Pira Sudham and Kamsing Srinawk; Michael Vatikiotis, a Bangkok-based foreign correspondent; journalist Yindee Lertchokchareon; editor Anusorn Thavassin; Kanit Wanakamol, a civil servant; businessmen Boonsri Thaiyai and Singhadej Pengrai, and lawyer Damnoen Garden.
 The return of soldiers to the barracks still leaves open the question of who will exercise real political power, on behalf of whom? There is no guarantee that elected civilian powerholders will use power vested in the state more justly. There are states in the