Skip to main content

Defensive Populism in Tutelary Democracies: The Case of Thaksin Shinawatra vs the Deep State in Thailand

  • 144 Accesses

Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)

Abstract

Margaret Canovan argues that “populism in modern societies is best seen as an appeal to the people against both the established structure and the dominant ideas and values of the society.” This chapter argues that this traditional way of looking at populism gives it too much agency. Instead of adopting a one-pronged approach to populism as a multi-class populist-led “mobilization” against the establishment, one could also examine the very labeling of populism as an elite-middle class mobilization against a popular leader. Populism then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the case of Thailand, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra turned to his people when the establishment of the Deep State (composed of the military, the monarchy, and the judiciary) labeled him a populist and threatened him with a military coup: in this case of tutelary democracy, populism is best labeled as “defensive.” The Thai case study shows that in tutelary democracies, “defensive populism” can nonetheless turn the middle-classes against democracy, with long-term effects on the country’s prospects for democratization.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-84079-2_15
  • Chapter length: 18 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   89.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-84079-2
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book
USD   119.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Notes

  1. 1.

    On the lèse-majesté law, see David Streckfuss, Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-Majesté (Routledge, 2011); see also Eugénie Mérieau, “A History of the Thai lèse-majesté Law,” in Thai Legal History: From Traditional to Modern Law, ed. Andrew Harding and Munin Pongsapan (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

  2. 2.

    Article 2, 1997 Constitution.

  3. 3.

    Jack Linshi, “These Are the 10 Richest Royals in the World,” Time Magazine, June 1, 2015.

  4. 4.

    Kasien Tejapira, Matichon, January 20, 2001, January 27, 2001.

  5. 5.

    Pasuk Phongpaichit published “Corruption and Democracy” in 1994 and “Thaksin’s Populism” in 2011; Anek Laothamatas published “A Tale of Two Democracies” in 1996 and “Thaksin’s Populism” in 2006. Pasuk Phongpaichit and Sangsit Phiriyarangsan, Corruption and Democracy in Thailand (Silkworm Books, 1994). Pasuk Phongpaichit, and Chris Baker, “Thaksin’s populism,” in Populism in Asia, ed. Kozuke Mizuno and Pasuk Phongpaichit (Singapore: NUS Press, 2009). Anek Laothamatas, [Thaksin—Populism: Meaning, Problems, and Solutions] (King Prajadhipok’s Institute, 2006).

  6. 6.

    Sonthi Limthongkul, speech in the United States following the coup, cited in Pasuk Pongpaichit and Chris Baker, “Thaksin’s Populism,” in Populism and Democracy in Asia, 85.

  7. 7.

    For an excellent biography of Thaksin Shinawatra, see Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, Thaksin (Silkworm Books, 2009). See also Duncan McCargo and Ukrist Pathmanand, The Thaksinization of Thailand (NIAS, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies: NIAS Press, 2005).

  8. 8.

    Ibid. During his first term, Thaksin published a book entitled Thaksinomics outlining his economic vision. Thaksin Shinawatra, Thaksinomics: The Thai Government’s Economic Paradigm Offers a New Role for Thailand in the Global Economy (Royal Thai Government, 2003).

  9. 9.

    Time, Asia Edition, August 13, 2001, p. 19, quoted in Pasuk and Baker, Thaksin’s Populism, p. 71.

  10. 10.

    Constitutional Court, Decision 20/2001, August 3, 2001.

  11. 11.

    Human Rights Watch, Thailand: Not Enough Graves: The War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS, and Violations of Human Rights, July 2004.

  12. 12.

    Ibid.

  13. 13.

    ‘PM shoots mouth off over UN query’, Bangkok Post, March 4, 2003.

  14. 14.

    Thaksin spoke this sentence in 2005, when the opposition was criticizing the impossibility of filing a no-confidence vote against the government.

  15. 15.

    This metaphor is borrowed from Benjamin Arditi, “Populism as an Internal Periphery of Democratic Politics,” in Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, ed. Francisco Panizza (London: Verso, 2005), 72–98.

  16. 16.

    Duncan Mc Cargo, “Network Monarchy and Legitimacy Crisis in Thailand,” Pacific Review, 18(4), 2005, 499–519.

  17. 17.

    Constitutional Court Decision 9/2549, May 8, 2006. See Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, “Thailand: An Abuse of Judicial Review,” in Judicial Review of Elections in Asia, ed. Po Jen Yap (Routledge, 2016). Björn Dressel, “Judicialization of Politics or Politicization of the Judiciary? Considerations from Recent Events in Thailand,” The Pacific Review, 23, 2010, 671.

  18. 18.

    Eugénie Mérieau, “Désirs de révolution à Bangkok: En Thaïlande, les jeunes face à la monarchie et à l’armée,” Le Monde Diplomatique, January, 2021.

Bibliography

  • Ahmed, N. 2012. “Capitalism, Covert Action and State Terrorism: Toward a Political Economy of the Dual State.” In E. Wilson (eds.), The Dual State, Parapolitics, Carl Schmitt and the National Security Complex. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 51–82.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boonmee, Thirayuth. 2006. [Judicial Review]. Bangkok: Winyuchon.

    Google Scholar 

  • Callahan, W.A. 2005. “The Discourse of Vote Buying and Political Reform in Thailand.” Pacific Affairs 78 (1): 95–113.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Canovan, M. 1999. “Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy.” Political Studies 47 (1): 2–16.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Case, W. 2017. Populist Threats and Democracy’s Fate in Southeast Asia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia. London: Routledge.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Connors, M. 2008. “Article of Faith: The Failure of Royal Liberalism in Thailand.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 38 (1): 143–165.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Dressel, B. 2010. “Judicialisation of Politics or Politicization of the Judiciary? Considerations from Recent Events in Thailand.” The Pacific Review 23 (5): 671–691.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fraenkel, E. 1941. The Dual State, A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Funston, N.J. 2009. Divided Over Thaksin: Thailand’s Coup and Problematic Transition. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ginsburg, T. 2007. “The Global Spread of Constitutional Review.” In K. Wittington and D. Keleman (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 81–94.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ginsburg, T. 2009. “Constitutional Afterlife, The Continuing Impact of Thailand’s Postpolitical Constitution.” International Journal of Constitutional Law 7 (1): 83–105.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Harris, J. 2015. “Who Governs? Autonomous Political Networks as a Challenge to Power in Thailand.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 45 (1): 3–25.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hewison, K. 2010. “Thailand’s Conservative Democratization.” In Yin-Wah Chu and Siu-lun Wong (eds.), East Asia’s New Democracies, Deepening, Reversal, Non-liberal Alternatives. New York: Routledge, pp. 122–140.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hewison, K., and Kengkij Kitirianglarp. 2010. “‘Thai-Style Democracy’: The Royalist Struggle for Thailand’s Politics.” In Soren Ivarsson and Lotte Isager (eds.), Saying the Unsayable: Monarchy and Democracy in Thailand. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, pp. 189–212.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hewison. K. 2017. “Reluctant Populists: Learning Populism in Thailand.” International Political Science Review 38 (4): 426–440.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hirschl, R. 2004. Towards Juristocracy. The Origins and Consequences of the New Constitutionalism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hirschl, R. 2008. “The Judicialisation of Mega-Politics and the Rise of Political Courts.” Annual Review of Political Science 11: 93–118.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Human Rights Watch. 2004. Thailand: Not Enough Graves: The War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS, and Violations of Human Rights. New York: Human Rights Watch.

    Google Scholar 

  • International Crisis Group. 2005. Southern Thailand: Insurgency, Not Jihad, Asia Report No. 98.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ivarsson, S., and L. Isager (eds.). 2010. Saying the Unsayable, Monarchy and Democracy in Thailand. Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jansen, R. 2011. “Populist Mobilization: A New Theoretical Approach to Populism.” Sociological Theory 29: 75–96.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaltwasser, C. 2012. “The Ambivalence of Populism: Threat and Corrective for Democracy,” Democratization 19 (2): 184–208.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Klein, James R. 1998. “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand: A Blueprint for Participatory Democracy.” The Asia Foundation Working Paper Series.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuhonta, E.M. 2008. “The Paradox of Thailand’s 1997 ‘People’s Constitution’: Be Careful What You Wish For.” Asian Survey 48: 373–392.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Laclau, E. 2005. On Populist Reason. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laothamatas, Anek. 1996. “A Tale of Two Democracies.” In R.H. Taylor (ed.), The Politics of Elections in Southeast Asia. Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center, pp. 201–223.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laothamatas, Anek. 2006. [Thaksin’s Populism: Meaning, Problems, and Solutions]. Bangkok: King Prajadhipok’s Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lipset, S.M. 1960. Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics. New York: Doubleday.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCargo, D. 2001. “Populism and Reformism in Contemporary Thailand.” Southeast Asia Research 9 (1): 89–107.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCargo, D. 2005. “Network Monarchy and Legitimacy Crisis in Thailand.” Pacific Review 18 (4): 499–519.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McCargo, D., and Ukrist Pathmanand. 2005. The Thaksinization of Thailand. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCargo, D. 2006. “Thaksin and the Resurgence of Violence in the Thai South: Network Monarchy Strikes Back?” Critical Asian Studies 38 (1): 39–71.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mérieau, E. 2013. Les Chemises rouges de Thaïlande [Thailand’s Red Shirts]. Paris/Bangkok: IRASEC.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mérieau, E. 2016a. “Anti-election Discourses. On Populism and Vote-Buying in Thailand.” In Eugénie Mérieau (ed.), The Politics of (No) Elections in Thailand. Bangkok: White Lotus Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mérieau, E. 2016b. “Thailand’s Deep State, Royal Power and the Constitutional Court (1997–2015).” Journal of Contemporary Asia 46: 445–466.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mérieau, E. 2017. “The Legal-Military Alliance for Illiberal Constitutionalism in Thailand.” In Björn Dressel and Marco Bünte (eds.), Politics and Constitutions in Southeast Asia. London: Routledge, pp. 140–160.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mérieau, E. 2019a. “Thailand in 2018: Military Dictatorship Under Royal Command.” In Daljit Singh and Malcolm Cook (eds.), Southeast Asian Affairs 2019. Singapore: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute, pp. 327–340.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mérieau, E. 2019b. “Thailand’s Lèse-Majesté Law: On Blasphemy in a Buddhist Kingdom.” Buddhism, Law and Society 4: 53–92.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mérieau, E. 2021a. “A History of the Thai lèse-majesté Law.” In Andrew Harding and Munin Pongsapan (eds.), Thai Legal History: From Traditional to Modern Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 60–70.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mérieau, E. 2021b. Constitutional Bricolage: Thailand’s Sacred Monarchy vs the Rule of Law. Oxford: Hart Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mouffe, C. 2018. For a Left Populism. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mudde, C. 2004. “The Populist Zeitgeist.” Government and Opposition 39 (4), 541–563.

    Google Scholar 

  • Müller, J.-W. 2016. What Is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, M. 2006. “Political Turmoil in Thailand: Thaksin, Protests, Elections, and the King.” Eastasia 5 (1): 1–22.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, M. 2007. “Thaksin Overthrown: Thailand’s ‘Well-intentioned’ Coup of September 19, 2006.” Eastasia 6 (1): 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  • Paxton, R. 2004. The Anatomy of Fascism. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Phongpaichit, Pasuk, and Sangsit Phiriyarangsan. 1994. Corruption and Democracy in Thailand. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Phongpaichit, Pasuk, and Chris Baker. 2009a. Thaksin. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Phongpaichit, Pasuk, and Chris Baker. 2009b. “Thaksin’s Populism.” In Kozuke Mizuno and Pasuk Phongpaichit (eds.), Populism in Asia. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 66–92.

    Google Scholar 

  • Phongpaichit, Pasuk, and Mizuno Kosuke (eds.). 2009. Populism in Asia. Singapore: NUS Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Przeworski, A. 1988. “Democracy as a Contingent Outcome of Conflicts.” In Jon Elster and Rune Slagstad (eds.), Constitutionalism and Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Riggs, F. 1966. Thailand: The Modernization of the Bureaucratic Polity. Honolulu: East-West Center.

    Google Scholar 

  • Saengkannokul, Piyabutr. 2007. [Royal Power, Privy Council, and Charismatic Persons Outside the Constitution]. Bangkok: Openbooks.

    Google Scholar 

  • Samudavanija, Chai-anan. 1982. The Thai Young Turks. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sinpeng, A., and A. Aruguay. 2015. “The Middle Class and Democracy in Southeast Asia.” In William Case (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Democratization. London: Routledge, pp. 102–116.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sopranzetti, C. 2012. Red Journeys: Inside the Thai Red-Shirt Movement. Silkworm Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Soyler, M. 2012. “Informal Institutions, Forms of State and Democracy: The Turkish Deep State.” Democratization 20 (2): 310–334.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Streckfuss, D. 2011. Truth on Trial in Thailand, Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-majesté. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tate, C.N., and T. Vallinder. 2005. The Global Expansion of Judicial Power. New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tejapira, Kasien. 2006. “Toppling Thaksin.” New Left Review 39: 5–37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thompson, M. 2016. “The Moral Economy of Electoralism and the Rise of Populism in the Philippines and Thailand.” Journal of Developing Societies 32 (3): 246–269.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Tonsakulrungruang, Khemthong. 2016. “Thailand: An Abuse of Judicial Review.” In Po Jen Yap (ed.), Judicial Review of Elections in Asia. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tunander, O. 2009. “Democratic State versus Deep State: Approaching the Dual State of the West.” In E. Wilson (ed.), Government of the Shadows: Parapolitics and Criminal Sovereignty. London: Pluto Press, pp. 56–72.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tunander, O. 2012. “Dual State: The Case of Sweden.” In E. Wilson (ed.), The Dual State: Parapolitics, Carl Schmitt and the National Security Complex. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 171–192.

    Google Scholar 

  • Unver, A. 2009. “Turkey’s Deep State and the Ergenekon Conundrum.” Middle East Institute 23: 1–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Winichakul, T. 2008. “Toppling Democracy.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 38 (1): 11–37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yoshifumi, T. 2008. “Democracy and the Middle Class in Thailand: The Uprising of May 1992.” In Shiraishi Takashi and Pasuk Phongpaichit (eds.), The Rise of Middle Classes in Southeast Asia. Kyoto: Kyoto University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eugénie Mérieau .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Mérieau, E. (2022). Defensive Populism in Tutelary Democracies: The Case of Thaksin Shinawatra vs the Deep State in Thailand. In: Dieckhoff, A., Jaffrelot, C., Massicard, E. (eds) Contemporary Populists in Power. The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-84079-2_15

Download citation