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The Way to Democracy

Author: Niu
Tutor: LiuWei
School: Zhejiang University
Course: Political Theory
Keywords: Thailand Authoritarian regime Democratization
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Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2012
Downloads: 278
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Abstract


Authoritarianism has its special breed in Southeast Asia where the countries share certain socio-political and cultural traditions that have contributed profoundly to the emergency and evolution of authoritarian regimes in the region. While such form of government was responsible for the rapid socio-economic development in the early stages of modernization, the intrinsic flaws of authoritarianism, such as excessive concentration of power and lack of respect for personal freedom, have become evident impediments to democratization, which asks for a new phase of political transformation.Researches on Thailand’s authoritarian mechanism and its transformation indicate that democratization is possible under authoritarianism. Thailand made its first attempt of political modernization by forming a constitutional monarchy in 1932. Yet due to the deeply rooted cultural traditions the new political institutions were strongly controlled by the old establishment. The new "democracy" therefore took the form of authoritarianism by nature. However, the regime’s legitimacy was constantly under questioning, which made adjustments towards democratization necessary, and a "semi-democracy" was achieved. Today, the conflicting interests created by decades of socio-economic developments are causing instability and political polarization as demonstrated in the recent confrontation between the "Red Coats" and "Yellow Coats", calling into question the authoritarian regime’s ability to guide the country through political turmoil by traditional means, which has opened new possibilities for deepening political reforms.This author, through probing into the origins, development and transformation of Thailand’s authoritarianism, undertakes to paint the picture in which the country has been so far relatively successful in going through traditional military authoritarianism, military-bureaucracy, and competitive party politics in a top-down "soft landing" attempt towards democratization, in the hope to shed some lights on other developing countries’similar approaches.

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