2015 年 61 巻 4 号 p. 42-60
Thai politics has become chaotic since 2006 due to democratization and the tenacious attempts to oppose it.
Democratization advanced slowly from the 1970s and accelerated in the 1990s, partly because the military, politically influential for a long time since 1932, retreated from politics after 1992. It became possible for the people to choose the prime minister and the government through general elections. However, anti-democratic demonstrators who felt unhappy with democratization appeared in 2005. They paid little respect to elections results and, instead, asked the monarchy to dismiss the prime minister and appoint a new one. They formed the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in 2006.
There have been three waves of de-democratization. Anti-democratic forces, spearheaded by PAD, included judicial institutions and the military as the main actors. They successfully toppled elected governments in 2006, 2008 and 2014. In 2013, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), led by several politicians of the opposition Democrat Party, assumed the role of commanding demonstrators in place of PAD. Court verdicts and military intervention have become more instrumental in the change of national leaders than national elections.
This essay will analyze how the anti-democratic forces succeeded in negating election results and depriving the people of power. In their struggle against democratization, they have resorted to a kind of nationalism. The nationalism is neither ethnic nor exclusionist, partly since democratization in Thailand was not the product of external pressure. Rather it is nationalism opposed to democracy, or popular sovereignty. It gives the highest priority to the monarchy rather than the people. The Thai historian Thongchai Winichakul has called it “royal nationalism.”
The Thai political regime officially stipulated in the constitutions since 1978 has been “a democratic regime with the monarch as the head of the state.” The bizarre feature of this regime is that the monarch and the people are co-owners of sovereign power. It is not a democratic regime based on the principle of popular sovereignty. The monarchy is not necessarily under the constitution. Respective percentage shares in sovereign power between the monarchy and the people have never been fixed.
It is quite reasonable to allege that the monarchy holds the larger share in order to negate or dilute the democratic legitimacy of elected politicians. This is the reason why the anti-democratic forces, PAD/PDRC, the military and the judiciary have pledged their allegiance to the monarchy and have lavished the highest laudatory statements on the monarchy. Thus the undemocratic forces, unhappy with the advancement of electoral democracy undermining their conventional power and privileges (for example, the royalists hoping for an expanded role for the monarchy, and the urban middle-class feeling disadvantaged due to their numerical inferiority) have supported “royal nationalism.”