Explaining Democratic Instability in Thailand 1992-2011
Williams, Zackery T.
Malley, Michael S.
Leavitt, Sandra R.
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While Thailand has a long history of military-led coups, most observers believed that the establishment of democracy in 1992 had put the country on a new course. It had not. In 2006, the military overthrew the elected government and attempted to reshape the countrys political system in order to favor its interests and those of its civilian and royal allies. This symbolized a period of instability and mass protest, which started nine months earlier, continues today, and had been unseen since the 1970s. The purpose of this thesis is to explain why Thai politics took this unexpected turn. Its main hypothesis is that political instability is a result of increased political and societal polarization that has its roots in the 1980s and 1990s, and which peaked during the early 2000s under the government of Thaksin Shinawatra and the Thai Rak Thai Party. This thesis shows that constitutional changes in the late 1990s led to a sharp increase in polarization because they encouraged the emergence of a two-party system. It concludes that while Thailand did, in fact, become more democratic in the 1990s, it also became more deeply divided, leading to instability. The stage was set for a coup and political instability when opponents of the traditional elites were elected, while the monarchy and military remained beyond the control of elected politicians.
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