Central—Local Relations in Thailand: Bureaucratic Centralism and Democratization
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Thailand is unique among South-East Asian nations for never having been colonized by the Western imperialist powers. Thus, institutions that were imposed on neighbouring countries by the colonizers were not forced upon the Thai polity. Neither was any antiimperialist politicization and struggle necessary. Despite this independence, Thailand has shared a common South-East Asian predilection for centralization in its politico-administrative system. This is an indigenous theme, which has crossed several centuries from the Sukothai period in the twelfth century through the modernization of King Rama V in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the overthrow of the absolute monarchy and establishment of the parliamentary system in 1932. The popular categorization of Thailand in the twentieth century as a ‘bureaucratic polity’ emphasises the centralized organization of the Thai state. According to this characterization of the Thai polity, the combination of military and civil bureaucracies became so pervasive in the state that their institutional interests determined which political and administrative decisions were made (Riggs 1966; Siffin 1966; Carifio 1992). The bureaucracy-foritself was able to resist or insulate itself from political threats in society, and these challenges have rarely been serious, as civil society has been kept in a state of underdevelopment.
KeywordsLocal Government Central Government Executive Committee Provincial Government District Officer
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