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Monday, 12 November 2007

An analysis of an internal contradiction and an external threat of Thailand

By: Ahmad Syah Ejaz Bin Hj Ismail

Note: This paper is presented to Dato’ Ahmad Mokhtar Selat, my lecturer for my coursework assignment of Internal Security in the first semester at University Malaya, Malaysia.

1. An Overview of Thailand – History, Economy and Social Diversity

Thailand or Siam is perhaps one of the most distinctive kingdoms located at the heart of Southeast Asia region mostly known with its beautiful peoples, distinctive culture and vast landscape with its mythical history and culture. Thailand is no doubt one of the most promising countries in Southeast Asia with its booming GDP at almost 6% per year. Its geo-strategic locations surrounded by the Third World Nations and new independent states had created an unmatched opportunity for it to exploit on the “blue ocean” resources. To the east of Thailand, lies Cambodia, its North is Laos, its South is Malaysia and to its West are the Andaman Sea and the hermit Kingdom of Myanmar. Populations of Thailand is around 62 millions and the largest city of Thailand is Bangkok which also is it capital city locating the administrative capital its Monarchy palace.

Thailand history and customs had greatly been influenced its neighbour especially India and China. Many of its peoples were direct descendents of Southern China descents which escaped the oppression of the warlord’s regime of the Yunnan high mound. Thailand which was known as Siam at its early civilizations had been waging wars with its neighbouring states. The first Thai Kingdom or Siamese state was traditionally considered to be the Buddhist Kingdom of Sukhothai, which was founded in 1238, following the decline and fall of the Khmer empire in the 13th - 15th Century AD.

It was changed (the capital) in the mid 14th Century which was Sukhothai to Ayutthaya. After the sack of Angkor by the Siamese armies in 1431, much of the Khmer culture and customs were brought up to Ayutthaya Kingdom. After Ayutthaya fall in 1767 to the Burmese, Thornburi was selected as the capital of Thailand for the brief period of time under King Taksin the Great. Then the city capital was again transferred to Bangkok by the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I the Great in 1782 where the first modern state of Thailand can be traced.

Thailand was never conquered by foreign power even though there were many efforts embarked to capitalize on the richness of Thailand and the promising land. Most of the effort was took by the European super powers such as France in the 16th Century, continued pursued by British and again France in the 19th Century and also to an extent Germany with it coveting the Gulf of Siam and its potential resources. Until the early 20th Century when France and Britain signed a pact to retain Thailand as the buffer states for the British colonies located at the South and French colony located at the East of Thailand (Cambodia and Vietnam).

One of the most frequent traits in Thailand’s political customs is that it was marred by its military power and endless military coup since 1932. Since the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had 17 constitutions and charters moulded. Even though Thailand has never been in total turmoil due to its coup, such political instability had created a malaise in the Thailand’s economy and protracted the much needed foreign direct investment in the modern day. Recently in 1997, Thailand was hit with the Asian financial crisis and its economy was frozen for a duration of time until it was put back again on track in 2003.

Thailand is newly industrialised countries where the main exports products are includes rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewellery, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Substantial industries included electric appliances, components, computer parts and automobiles, while tourism contributes about 5% of the Thai economy’s GDP. Long stay foreign residents and their business investments also contribute heavily to GDP.

In the globalize world, Thailand is catching up by offering its low labour cost and vast land for high capital intensive agriculture industry. No wonder, many of the world’s car manufacturers had installed their car factories in Thailand due to its strategic locations for distributions in Southeast Asia.

2. Thailand internal contradictions

2.1 Thailand’s military apparatus

Thailand’s political history from 1932 to 2007 was dominated by the military dictatorship which was in power for much of the period. The first junta military government came to power in the bloodless Siamese coup d’etat of 1932, which transformed the government of Thailand from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. The reason for the coup is to instil a democratic government through the intervention of militaristic power and the new regime of 1932 was led by a group of army colonels. The coup was launched after seeing the unbalanced of the wealth distribution especially top government post were held by monarch family at that time lead by King Prajadhipok.

The main objective of the first junta military government was to draft a new economic plan for the nations. Headed by young civilian faction led by Pridi Phanomyong, he called for the nationalisation of large tracts of farmland as well as rapid government-directed industrialisation. It also called for the growth of higher education so that entry into the bureaucracy would not be completely dominated by royalty and the aristocracy. Apart from that, in 1938 he began to pursuit the idea of demagogic campaign against the Chinese business class. Chinese schools and newspapers were closed, and taxes on the Chinese businesses were increased. Phibun copied the ideological techniques used by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to build up the cult of the leader.

Modernisation and patriotism was taught in schools and was a recurrent theme in song and dance. Phibun work rigorously to rid society of its royalist influences where traditional royal holidays were replaced by new national events. Thailand customs and modern cultures are brought up by Thai’s military approach where the pursuits of a civil idea where wealth distribution is not only confined to the aristocrats as during the King Prajadhipok reign but for the people as a whole.

Ever since the 1932 coup, Thai’s junta military had played a major role in building the modern Thailand. Even though sometimes the relationship between the royal family and the military junta looks strained, but such shared relationship had created a status quo of unbreakable doctrine where militaristic approach is needed in resolving a deadlock issues either it be politically or economically. Till this day, if there are a dissatisfaction among the Thai’s on the government decision in Bangkok affecting their lives, Thais will back up a network monarchy (monarch and military apparatus) in launching coup de’etat replacing the elected government in Bangkok.

Thailand has never been short on its military generals with a lust to rule. Sine 1932, when a faction of army officers and politicians overthrew the last absolute monarch, the kingdom had suffered 18 coups. Thailand recent political turmoil came when General Sonthi Boonyaratglin launched a coup against Thaksin Shinawatra’s government after dissatisfaction arises against Thaksin’s regime on his methods of solving crises occurred in Southern Thailand. Even though not a shot was fired during the country’s 18 coup in 74 years, to some critics it (the coup) was a setback for democracy believers such critics like John Howard mentioned “a throwback to a past I hoped Asia had emerged from”.

According to Bridget Welsh, Thailand’s current crisis reflects another weakness in democracies in the region. Where the political parties that revolve around individuals rather than issues or ideologies. Democracy is more than a popularity contest in Thailand where it requires meaningful representation. Even for some critics that the coup launched by Generanl Sonthi Boonyaratglin has been effectively endorsed by the country’s most beloved monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and it’s popular with the people of Bangkok, most who wanted Thaksin out, but it stains Thailand’s young democracy, emboldens authoritarian regimes in Asia and demoralizes Asian fighting for freedom elsewhere in the region.

According to Andrew Marshall, Burmese generals will celebrate the Thailand's military takeover, and the months of the political deadlock that preceded it, because it proves what they’ve insisted all along that democracies don’t work and civilians can’t run countries. According to critics, Thai’s coup will bolster Burmese general’s arguments to remain authoritarian. The military junta administration in Thailand will only send a stark message that Asian democracies are immature and fragile, with its political systems incapable of guaranteeing smooth and legitimate transfers of power. Even if General Sonthi keeps his promise and returns power to civilian hands by holding an election after a year of the coup and the new constitutions is drafted, the damage already is done. Thai’s coup according to critics will embolden antidemocratic forces across the region.

2.2 Thailand’s monarch and the Privy Council (Network Monarchy)

Thailand unique political structure also consists of its Privy Council which is an apparatus consists of aristocrats and former army military commander. It is also known by the Thais as Network Monarchy. The Privy Council is the royally-appointed group of advisors of the King of Thailand. Members of Privy Council are known as Privy Councillors. Privy Councillors can, under the royal command, represent the King at the official functions. The Presidents of the Privy Council acts as regent pro tempore in the King’s absence holding such power as the number two man after the King and shadowing the Prime Minister’s post.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Privy Council as of 2005 was composed mostly of retired military leaders and members of the royal family. The Privy Council can be seen as an arm of monarch’s power in meddling into administrations of elected government. According to section 12, Chapter II of the Thailand’s constitutions, the King selects and appoints qualified persons to be the Presidents of the Privy Council and not more than eighteen Privy Councillors to constitute the Privy Council. The Privy Council has a duty to resolve such advice to the King on all matters pertaining to his functions as he may consult, and has other duties as provided in this constitution.

Section 15 of the Thailand’s constitutions stated that before taking office, a Privy Councillor shall make a solemn declaration before the King in the following words “I (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to His majesty the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interest of the country and of the people. According to Section 14, the Privy Councillor is a permanent position or receiving salary. Unlike in the West, where checks and balances on the abuse of the power exists within the democratic systems, the corrective measures/ mechanism in Thai’s government has tended to come from outside, usually through military intervention back up by Thai’s monarch. Refereeing this tug of war between the officials and officers in the country’s beloved 78 years old constitution monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose every whisper is dissected for political meaning and carries the weight of divine mandate. Mostly his decision and interventionist mechanism will be drafted and shadowed by the Privy Council.

This can be explained during the 19 September 2006 coup where King Bhumibol Adulyadej make himself clear endorsing the new military junta and asking the Thais to obey their orders. The night of the coup, Sonthi had already signalled his loyalty to the King by arming his soldiers with yellow ribbons, which is the colour associated with the monarch that were tied around the muzzles of their rifles.

Such fealty to the King contrasted with mounting criticism in recent months that Thaksin had burnished his reputation at the monarch’s expense. Thaksin’s once complained that “a charismatic figure”, widely interpreted to be either the King or his top adviser Prem Tinsulanod (Privy Council’s presidents) was trying to force him out of office.

On the issues of settling disputes in Southern Thailand, the question arises why did violence flare up in Thailand’s deep-south early in 2004? Though not a complete explanation, one important answer is that Thaksin Shinawatra had chosen the region as the battle ground for his fight to wrest control of Thailand from the palace, the Privy Council, or the network monarchy.

Before the coup was launched in September 2006, there were persistent rumours in Bangkok that the former army commander (and Privy Councillor) Surayud Chulanot was planning to stage a military coup, with tacit approval from the palace, aimed at ousting Thaksin. While there was no evidence to support the coup rumour, it indicated the desire felt by some Thais for a re-assertion of network monarchy.

2.3 Thailand’s economic problems

Thailand’s entered a recovery state in 1999 after was marred by the tumultuous 1997 financial crisis, expanding its GDP at the scale of 4.2% and 4.4% in 2000. This was largely contributed by its strong exports products which increased about 10% in the year 2000. Growth was picked up after the year 2000, due to various domestic stimulation programmes of Thaksin Shinawatra’s popularly known as Thaksinomics. Growth in the year 2002, 2003 and 2004 was 5.7% annually. Much of the internal contradiction which occurred in Thailand came from the internal economic problems. For an example the problems in Southern Thailand is be inherent from the unequal wealth distribution. The internal economic contradictions will contributes to Thailand’s domestic issues such as terrorism, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, prostitutions and economic instability.

A survey was conducted in nine districts of the three southern provinces identifies various problems that local Muslim populations faced in the state of Pattani which contributes to the internal conflict between the Buddhist Thais and the Malays Muslims. The problems include poverty, unemployment, and lack of education, substandard infrastructure, inadequate supplies of land and capital, low quality of living standards and other economic related problems. Much of the governmental post such as enforcement agencies (military and police) was held by Buddhist Thais which came from the Menam Chao Phraya valley and not from the Southern state itself. This contributes to the frustration feelings of the rural poor Malay Muslim living in the state of Pattani.

An attempts to implement a variety of programs of socio-economic growth and development seem to have made much improvement at the macro-level and in service and public sectors, but this has not translated into much needed jobs nor substantially improved standards of living for the great majority of the Muslim populations especially in the South area. Thaksinomic’s was implemented solely at the Northern area of Thailand where most of the populations were Buddhist Thais and the Southern citizens were completely abandoned by the economic policy of Thaksin Shinawatra.

On the issues of reforming Thailand’s traditional economic structures of farming and businesses, there are attempts by rural residents of not welcoming the traditional ways of farming. There was a clash, at least in theory, between those who want to reject foreign influences in favour of a traditional Thai ways of doing things and those who want to make basic changes in ways of the Thais. During Thaksinomic’s, government subsidies were reduced and the participation of MNC’s in supplying rural farmers with tools and manure were encouraged and at the same time providing wider markets for the agriculture products to be sold. This revolutionary method of farming had siphoned the International Capital in developing rural Thailand especially at the Northern area.

There are efforts by Thaksin Shinawatra’s government in wiping out factionalism or patronage system in Thailand thus contributing a conflict with the Network Monarchy of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. Unlike Thailand, states such as Malaysia which had reverted to nationalistic rhetoric instead of embracing the global economy were not getting much FDI’s and were moving backwards at the arising power of small labour nations such as Thailand, Vietnam and China. Thailand moved quickly from labour intensive to capital intensive industries and is now heading into technological based industries. The attitude of states citizens is another dimension of change in Thailand’s economy, where people are moving from a feudal, introverted, and autocratic and very hierarchical society to a considerable extent it still is all this things, but it is changing to become far more inclusive.

Bangkok and its environs are the most prosperous parts of Thailand, and heavily dominate the national economy, while the infertile Northeast regions of Thailand (the poorest) were left out of the previous government economic policy. The strong focus of the incumbent Prime Minister Thaksin at that time was to reduce these regional income differentials, which have been exacerbated by the rapid economic growth in and around Bangkok and the recuperation of the 1997 financial crisis.

Although the economy has demonstrated moderate positive growth since 1999, future performance depends on the continue reform of the financial sector, corporate debt restructuring, attracting foreign investment and increasing exports. Telecommunications, roadways, electricity generation, and ports showed increasing strain during the period of sustained economic growth and may pose future challenges to Thailand. Thailand’s growing shortage of engineers and skilled technical personal may limit its future technological creativity and productivity which the future government have to tackle if it wants to move forward.

2.4 Thailand’s on regionalism contradictions

Thailand’s population is dominated by the various Thais speaking peoples. Among these, the most numerous are the Central Thais, the North eastern Thai or Isan or Lao, the Northern Thai and the Southern Thais. The Central Thai have long dominated the nation politically, economically, and culturally, even though they make up only about one-third of Thailand’s population and are slightly outnumbered by the North eastern Thais. No wonder much of the previous wealth and government sponsored economic development were siphoned to these area.

Due to educational systems and the forging of the national identity early 1930s, many people are now able to speak Central Thai (linguistic Tai) as well as their own local dialects. In 1929, when Phibun came to power, he changed the country’s name from Siam to Pathet Thai or Thailand, meaning “land of the free”. This was a national gesture as it implied the unity of all the Thai-speaking peoples, including Lao and Shan, but excluding the Chinese. The regimes slogan became “Thailand for the Thais”.

In the North eastern region of Thailand, there are many Vietnamese refuges settled in the regions after the end of the Vietnam War. While the Northerners Thai’s are descendent from Lao or Laos known as Isan (ethnic Lao). Most of them settled after Laos’s Civil War (1950s – 1975). The largest group of non-Thais people are the Chinese who have historically played a disproportionately significant role in the Thailand’s economy. Most of them integrated completely in the North-eastern region.

According to the last census conducted in 2000, 95% of the Thais are Buddhist of the Theravadas Buddhism tradition. Muslim is the second largest group in Thailand at 4.6% of its total populations. Some provinces and towns south of Chumplon have been dominated by the Muslim populations, and complemented by various ethnic Thais. Often Muslim lives in the separate communities from the non-Muslim. The Southern tip of Thailand, concentrated by mostly of the ethnic Malays and they form a strong majority in three provinces (Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani).

Most of the internal conflicts which threatening Thailand’s economic progress and nation’s development occurred in Thailand’s Southern region. Southern problems had created such instability to Thailand since the political environment and are the major factors contributing to the September 2006 coup launched by General Soonthi Boonyaratglin. The sub region which includes the three provinces of the Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat was only incorporated into Siam in 1909, and roughly 80% of its populations of around 1.8 millions are Malay Muslims. Political and administrative power however remains firmly in the hands of a de facto Buddhist state which precipitates discontents among the majority of the Malay Muslim.

The Southern conflict is not simply about the South per se. The “luminal zone” of the border provinces has been thrust to the very centre of Thailand’s national politics, in this sense, “the periphery has come to town”. To an extent, it wasn’t only incorporate about Thai’s political instability brought by the Southern Thai conflicts which is now becoming a struggle of ideas derived from the radical readings of Islam. The Southern problems also is a testament of how fragile the democratic government in fighting feudal influence of Thailand’s long monarch.

2.5 Thailand’s struggle for civil society

The South is the principal site for Thaksin’s attempts to wrest control of Thailand from the old power networks that dominate the country prior to 2001. Plus the South also considered by the ruling government as usually combustible, highly sensitive, and had developed a distinctive and precarious set of accommodations. Those elected must solve the conflicts arises at the South to legitimate their ruling mandates either by the public votes or King consents.

Closely related to these political issues were competition for power and resources among the various government agencies responsible for security in the South. This is not to suggest that a divisive control of the lucrative smuggling trade which motivated Thaksin to intervene in the Southern conflict. In rather be, this trade supported a set of political arrangements that Thaksin found intolerable and with good reason.

Thaksin Shinawatra has sought to lead (or perhaps to manage) Thailand’s internal contradictions and Network Monarchy and its historical monarch power very differently from his predecessor. One essential difference relates to the extra constitutional role of the monarchy. The dominant mode of governance used in Thailand since 1980 may best be termed monarchical network governance, or network monarchy. Since his success in helping to out the Thanom-Praphas regime, Thailand’s King Bhumipol has been far more than a conventional constitutional monarch. Rather, he has sought to institutionalize a range of extra-constitutional political powers. Occasionally, he makes open, personal interventions in the political process. The most well-known example was following the violent demonstrations of May 1992, when he called in Prime Minister Suchinda Kraprayoon and protest leader Chamlong Srimuang for a public, televised dressing down.

In 2005 and prior to the 2006 coup the monarchy operates through proxies, led by former prime minister, and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanod, dubbed by Chai-Anan Samudavanija Thailand’s “surrogate strongman”. Prem exerted considerable control over military and bureaucratic appointments, and intervened in the formation of government coalitions in 1994 and 1997. During the 1990s, Prem worked through a series of weak coalition governments to help preserve royal prerogatives and influences. It seems highly possible that Prem helped Thaksin escape conviction by the Constitutional Court in August 2001, when he faced charges of assets declaration violations. As incumbent prime minister at that time, Thaksin’s aim was to displace network monarchy, and to replace it with a much more centralized form of political control. The crisis in the South that began in 2004 was simply the most blatant manifestation of this political project.

The national level tensions between the competing network of Thaksin and the palace provided a context and background for the renewed Southern violence, creating a space in which other forces could emerge and operate. The South had come to symbolize all the problems faced by Thaksin and his government, and all the deficiencies of his authoritarian mode of leadership. “The South” was no longer about the South, but it was about the legitimacy of the Thaksin’s government, and of the Thai state itself.

3. Thailand’s external threats

Thailand contradiction also can come from its external threat of the neighbouring countries to an extent Thailand’s economic policy and domestic issues is too certain was influenced by its external threat of the neighbouring countries. Such threat can come in two forms, either it be at the perceptions level or the reality stage.

3.1 Vietnam

During the Vietnam War 1961-1975, Thailand was used as an important element in the Pentagon’s “forward positioning” strategy. USAF deployed a combat aircrafts to Thailand during the conflict and many of the US Airmen were stationed in Thailand rather than South Vietnam. But the level of operation was dubbed as clandestine by the Thai’s government to an extent no pictures can be taken by the public except by the Military personnel for documentations.

The involvement of Thailand’s junta military into Vietnam War during that time had boom the nation’s economic prosperity to an unprecedented stage where critics claimed that this is the first time globalization had reached Vietnam. The presence of the U.S. Army had brought the Thailand’s economy to prosperity and also precipitates the sex trade industry and tourism industry of an American personal which was stationed in Vietnam. The effects lingers after the war which those who served in Vietnam during the war came back and told its friends in United States about Thailand’s tourist attractions. There are arguments also that arms trafficking also was rampant after the Vietnam War due to the influx of U.S. weapons cache, but this arguments much still need to be proved.

The “Domino Theory” where Communism prevails in Southeast Asia also put Thailand in full alert during the War. If the Vietnamese Communist soldiers came marching in into Thailand, the Southeast Asia Free State shall send their soldiers to fight war at the Menam Chao Phraya Valley rather than their own soil. That is why Thai’s government allowed the U.S. presence in Thailand’s North eastern regions.

North-eastern region of Thailand housed a community of a Vietnamese mixed in with the Chinese throughout the country. Some of the Vietnamese wanted to move to Communist North Vietnam, but they were not necessarily Communist sympathizers. Indeed, attempts by North Vietnamese Communist to organize the Vietnamese in Thailand were dealt strongly by the Thai government.

3.2 Laos

Laos is once a former region of Thailand’s located at the Northern area. It was secedes to French colonizers in the 1893 to avoid war with the French which at that time residing at the French Indochina and ever since there are arguments saying that Laos is belong to Thailand. Laos had been embroiled in its Civil war throughout 1950’s and by the early 1960’s the conflict was threatening to spread into Thailand. Major fighting broke out in December 1960 and spread far enough to cause casualties among Thai civilians living along the Mekong River.

Thailand was a constitutional monarchy and traditionally maintained pro-western stance in foreign affairs. The fighting in Laos was of great concern to the Thai government and feared if Laos would fall to the Communist, “Domino Theory” would place the entire region, including Thailand in jeopardy. In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a multi-division attack against the Royal Lao Army. The attack resulted in the army largely demobilizing and leaving the conflict to irregular forces raised by the United States and Thailand.

3.3 Cambodia

Cambodia is a state located at the East of Thailand. Historically, Khmers people of Cambodia had been waging numerous wars with Siam. Khmer culture had influenced Siam greatly, to an extent small issues such as the construction of Angkor Watt can precipitate riots. Much to the interconnection between Thailand and Cambodia, Angkor Watt was sacked by the Thais and completely abandoned after the war in the 14th Century. The Mekong River which goes through Cambodia also contributes much to the political stability of Thailand. The Mekong was the frontline between the emergent states of Siam and Tonkin (North Vietnam). After the Vietnam War, the tensions between the U.S.-backed Thai government and the new Communist governments in the other countries prevented cooperation on use of the river.

During the Khmer Rouge regime which came into power in 1973, the conflicts had contributes to the influx of Cambodian refugees to Thailand, and created a strain of the relationship between two countries. The Thai’s military was put on full alert when the Vietnamese army attacked Cambodia, fearing the Domino Theory.

3.4 Burma

Burma, the hermit Kingdom of South East Asian. Neighbouring Thailand to its West border, Burma had a long history reservation with the Thais. Burma will always be considered as a threat to Thailand no matter when. There were numerous wars which had been fought between the two countries. So much so that Thai’s and Burmese hated each other, but critics claimed with the recent September 2006 Thailand’s military coup, Burmese junta military had an excuse in not to embrace democracy and considered Thailand as one of the country which is in the same league of an authoritarian rule.

Political instability in Thailand will be greeted well in Burma, especially for its military junta to retain its authoritarian rule and superfluous border for the opium, drugs and arms to be flowed in into Thailand. Critics also claimed that much of the rubies and jewellery which came from Burmese mines were trafficked into Thailand before it reaches the International markets. Arms trafficking and the Burmese refugees precipitated by the Junta military suppressions of the Burmese intellectuals is also an issues and a test to Thailand’s—Burmese relations.

3.5 Malaysia

Perhaps one of the nations that do not have much international strain issues with Thailand is its Southern neighbours, Malaysia. Being one of the most settled democracy states in Southeast Asia after Singapore, Malaysian took a passive role on the border issues with Thailand. All of the international and bilateral issues with Thailand were solved through ASEAN, APEC or United Nations collectively.

But with the growing political instability in Southern Thailand and after 88 Malays Muslim are found dead on the military trucks, the conflict had reached a new level of intervention by Indonesia and Malaysia and brought a strain for Malaysian-Thailand’s relation. Being Muslim nations, Malaysia was pressured by the dominant Malays populations to intervene in the Thailand affairs to defend the Muslim populations of the South. Thailand claimed and accused Malaysia in harbouring imam and Islamic teachers which responsible in instilling the Jihad creed in Malay Muslim which impulse the Police Station attack in 2004 and these imam was claimed by the Thai’s government to be hiding in the state of Kelantan. This was denied by Malaysian government claiming that Thaksin was diverting the Thais attention of the gravity of the Southern Thailand’s situations.

Other than the issues of Southern Thailand’s problems, relatively relations with the Malaysian government had been cordial between the two countries. Perhaps its one of the ASEAN principle in not meddles into another neighbour internal conflict. Thailand had been capitalizing on the Malaysia’s cheap petrol even though such dealings are considered illegal. Other than Southern Thais problems, small misunderstanding between the two enforcement agencies such as customs and border patrol arises, but not to a great length which and precipitates conflict between the two countries.

4. Thailand’s related issues

4.1 Thailand’s drugs and prostitutions problems

Research and statistics had indicated that some 2.5 – 6 million people were habitual drugs users in Thailand, with up to 3 millions of still in school. In 2002, Thaksin Shinawatra and his effort in fighting the drugs problems of Thailand had created a policy consisted of border blocking (most of the methamphetamine is produced in Myanmar), public education, sports, and promoting peer pressure against drugs use. This policy of war on drugs even though very popular with the Thais, generally it is acknowledged as ineffective in fighting drugs lords as a whole.

In September 2004, George W. Bush announced in the Annual Determination of Major Illicit Drugs Producing and drug-Transit Countries to remove Thailand from the list of major drug-transit or major drug producing countries.

Since the Vietnam War, Thailand had gained international notoriety among travellers from Japan, Korea, and Western countries as a sex tourism destination. In Thai society, visiting prostitutes is considered common. It was estimated that in 2003, prostitutions had contributes to the USD 4.3 billions per year of nations GDP, about 3% of the Thai economy. Prostitutions have been technically illegal in Thailand since 1960, when the law was passed under the pressure of the United Nations. The prohibition however was not enforced, instead the government had instituted a system of monitoring for sex workers in order to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

4.2 Institutions set up

The collapsed of the democratic elected government in the September 2006 launch coup by the Military junta had proved how fragile democracy is in Thailand. Thais had never experienced what would be called as settled democracy to their own preference of using the Network Monarchy as a checks and balance between the elected government and the civil society. This act and traditional way of check and balance seeing by the international community as un mature politic solution in showing disagreements with the elected governments.

Perhaps the traditions of the Thais itself in choosing elected representatives towards mode of personalities and their popularities rather than their educational background and political strength had created a tension on the issues of political legitimacy of the Thailand’s democratic peace practices. Bridget Welsh, an assistant researcher of the John Hopkins University had stressed out that democracy is more than a popularity contest where it requires more meaningful representations.

What was needed in changing the traditional politics of Thailand and most of the Asian democratic mechanism practices is to ensure democracy prevails by institutionalized the political parties in its efforts to reach grassroots and provide channels for feedback, at the same time offering a variety of clear policy platforms and to hold vigorous internal leadership elections and debates.

The peoples of Thailand are more prone in inclining their preferences towards individual popularity. This creates a time bomb in precipitates future problems when politicians gets into trouble over personnel matters, such as Thaksin’s faced during his allegedly corrupt business dealings. When such popular leader was marred by political tensions and when leadership institutions was too closely tied to a single person, the whole nations suffers because of the bond created by the traditional thinking of the whole masses.

As crisis develops, personalized parties are inclined to throw up another individual as the country’s saviour which is a particularly common phenomenon in Southeast Asian nations such as Thailand and Philippines. This will lead to further instability where the people are deprived of a legitimate feedback system that they can have confidence in, which will resort them to take their anger and dissatisfaction to the streets to submit their grievances.

Free media and civil society is needed in Thailand and should be allowed to flourish where such an institutions can channel the voice of the people and make governments more accountable. Thailand and Southeast Asian regions need competitive elections, stronger and more representative’s political parties and a vibrant civil society.

1.Rethinking Thailand’s Southern Violence, 2007. Duncan McCargo, NUS Press Singapore;
2.Thailand’s Economic Recovery, 2006. Cavan Hogue, ISEAS, Singapore;
3.Studies in Thai History, 1991. David K. Wyatt, Silkworm Books; and
4.Thaksin: Business Politics in Thailand, 2005. Pasuk Pongphaicit, Silkworm Books.

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