Central—Local Relations in Thailand: Bureaucratic Centralism and Democratization

  • Wathana Wongsekiarttirat
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


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.


Local Government Central Government Executive Committee Provincial Government District Officer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bowronwathana, B. (1996) ‘Political Relaties of Local Government Reform in Thailand’, in S. Kurosawa, T. Fujiwara and M.A. Reforma (eds), New Trends in Public Administration for the Asia-Pacific Region ( Tokyo: Local Autonomy College, Ministry of Home Affairs ), pp. 79–88.Google Scholar
  2. Cario, L.V. (1992) Bureaucracy for Democracy: The Dynamics of Executive—Bureaucracy Interaction During Governmental Transition (Quezon City: College of Public Administration, University of the Philippines).Google Scholar
  3. Kokpol, O. (1996) ‘Thailand’, in P.L. McCarney (ed.), The Changing Nature of Local Government in Developing Countries ( Toronto: Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto ), pp. 135–68.Google Scholar
  4. Laothamatas, A. (1988) ‘Business and Politics in Thailand: New Patterns of Influence’, Asian Survey, 17 (4): 451–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. National Economic and Social Development Board (1997) The Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan 1997–2001 (Bangkok).Google Scholar
  6. Raksasataya, A. (1993) ‘Local Government in Thailand: The Need For Reform’, in R.P. De Guzman and M.A. Reforma (eds), Decentralization Towards Democratization and Development ( Manila: EROPA ), pp. 59–69.Google Scholar
  7. Raksasataya, A. (1996) ‘Centralization—Decentralization: A Hundred-Year-Tug-ofWar in Thailand’, in S. Kurosawa, T. Fujiwara and M.A. Reforma (eds), New Trends in Public Administration for the Asia-Pacific Region(Tokyo: Local Autonomy College, Ministry of Home Affairs), pp. 73–8.Google Scholar
  8. Riggs, F.W. (1996) The Modernization of a Bureaucratic Polity ( Honolulu: East-West Center Press).Google Scholar
  9. Samudavanija, C.A. (1995) Thailand: A Stable Semidemocracy’, in L. Diamond, J.J. Linz and S.M. Lipset (eds), Politics in Developing Countries: Comparing Experiences With Democracy ( Boulder: Lynne Rienner ), pp. 323–68.Google Scholar
  10. Siffin, W.B. (1966) The Thai Bureaucracy: Institutional Change and Development ( Honolulu: East-West Center Press).Google Scholar
  11. World Bank (1997) World Development Report 1997 ( New York: Oxford University Press ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mark Turner 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wathana Wongsekiarttirat

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations