Thailand: History, Politics and the Rule of Law
This introductory book on Thai politics and the rule of law explains why chronically unstable Thailand struggles to mediate and adjudicate its political disputes. It focuses on the continuities between the pre-1932 and post-1932 periods. Since the shift to constitutional monarchy in 1932, the power of the monarch and military has endured, the legislature, electorate and, until recently, judiciary have been comparatively powerless, and constitutions and laws have been comparatively unimportant. Historical continuities are also evident in the persistence of hierarchical thinking and ethno-nationalism, both of which have inhibited open debates about governance. And the rule of law does not always apply, owing to different principles underlying western and traditional Siamese law and the emergence of a distinctively Thai legal culture and consciousness. Thailand’s governance was re-cast ambitiously in the 1890s, 1932 and 1997. Since 1997, governing Thailand and developing Thailand’s economy have become harder. So political disputes have become more acute and the absence of a national consensus on dispute settlement mechanisms more obvious. Until governance is again re-cast, Thailand’s political instability and cycle of coups will continue.
James Wise was Australia’s Ambassador to Thailand from 2010 to 2014. He also worked in Thailand from 1995 to 1998, when he was Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy. He is now an independent consultant providing assessments and presentations on trends in the political economy of Thailand. James was an Australian diplomat for over 30 years. In addition to two postings to Thailand, he was High Commissioner to Malaysia (2003–2007) and had earlier postings to the Soviet Union (1987–1991) and Papua New Guinea (1983–1985).