DEMOCRACY MATTERS: HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN THAILAND FROM 2001 TO 2017
Malley, Michael S.
Barma, Naazneen H.
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Conventional wisdom suggests that human rights abuses increase under authoritarianism or autocratic governments and decline under democratic governments. However, despite frequent regime changes in Thailand since 2001, human rights abuses in the country have remained generally persistent. To explain this puzzling circumstance, this thesis examines data from the Political Terror Scale (PTS), the Polity IV Project, the U.S. State Department, and nongovernmental human rights organizations. The thesis finds that all governments in Thailand between 2001 and 2017—even those that are usually described as democratic—displayed significant authoritarian characteristics, and that the persistence of authoritarianism also explains the persistence of human rights abuses throughout this period. More specifically, the thesis shows that only Thaksin Shinawatra’s government (2001–2006) can be classified as democratic, and Thaksin explicitly pledged to rule Thailand with an iron fist. All other governments were either clearly authoritarian or semi-authoritarian; none should be categorized as clearly democratic. Therefore, the persistently high level of human rights abuse should be viewed as a result of persistently authoritarian aspects of government in Thailand.
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