The Story of Thai Democracy: An Introduction

With a few free weeks ahead of me, I’ve been considering embarking on a writing project a little more expansive than just single blog posts. I’ve been asking myself: what is something that I’m passionate about but never had the chance to really discuss? What is something that I feel is really important that I want more people to read about? What is something big that I’ve always wanted to tackle, and that I can now do with time on my side?

Inevitably, my sights were set on history. I’ve always been passionate about history; in fact, before I took up writing about politics, I almost exclusively wrote about history. In the past three years, however, with so much competing for time, I’ve had to make sacrifices. Gone were my blog posts about random bits of history that I enjoy; replacing them were political discussions. But now that I have time again, what about history do I want to write? Initially I toyed with the idea of writing a history of the world (I had tried to do something like that once upon a time but gave up soon enough). I also thought maybe I should go back to talking about ancient history. But eventually, I settled on a project that I think will be far more relevant and important both for myself and my readers.

Today, Thailand remains in a complicated political situation; calm at the surface, due to the government’s iron fist since the military coup of 2014. But beneath the relatively tranquil veneer is the bubbling of tensions that arise from such a divided country. 85 years since Thailand was granted its first constitution after the absolute monarchy yielded its powers, Thai democracy is still undergoing crisis after crisis. Nearly a century on, it seems, democracy has yet to plant its roots firmly in Thai soil.

It seems, however, that little attention is being paid to actually understanding the past 85 years. There is, I believe, a lack of popular historical accounts of the story of Thai democracy that can be easily accessed and read online.  And this, I believe, is hugely important. We talk often about the need for a solution to Thailand’s political crisis; but, as Confucius said, only by studying the past can we divine the future. If we do not understand the history of Thailand’s democracy, how can we endeavour to fix its problems? Just as we would basic a commentator on American politics to have a basic understanding of American political history, should we not expect the same for someone seeking to explain Thai politics?

And so this is how I arrived at the conclusion that I want to try writing a series of blog posts on Thai history since 1932. I will start from the beginning- the roots of Thailand’s political modernisation- to the present day. I will trace the cyclical nature of Thai politics: the rise and fall of dictators, the coups and countercoups, the winning and annulling of elections. This, of course, is not a scholarly project; it will simply be a work of popular history, and as such I must ask for inaccuracies, which are bound to be present, to be excused. I do hope, however, that this series will shed some light on the contextual history of Thailand’s political quagmire, and will do something to show a path forward.

This project will be valuable for me, as I myself try to gain a better understanding of my own country, and I hope that it will be useful for a wider audience too. I hope that you’ll join me for the ride!

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