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Social Groups, Political Forces and Democracy. A Structure-Driven Explanation of Democratic Transformation in Thailand


  • Aurel Croissant


On 19 September 2006, units of the Royal Thai Army successfully staged a coup d’?tat against the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This article sets out to examine the recent events within the broader context of social and political developments in Thailand since 1932. Its main argument is that due to the complex configuration of societal conflicts within Thai society, the 2006 coup cannot be explained simply as a result of a lack of military professionalism. The failure of democracy is rather a consequence of the incapacity of the political system to accommodate these social and political tensions. The main shortcomings have been the weakly organized social bases for mass parties and, especially, the lack of adequate representation of the interests of the urban working class and rural voters. Simultaneously, the legitimacy of the political aspirations and preferences of those segments of Thai society has not been fully accepted by the political elites. Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party attempted to fill this vacuum from the late 1990s on. In view of the deep social cleavages that exist in Thai society and the lack of powerful organizations which could represent the interests of politically marginalized groups, the short-term prospects of further democratization in Thailand must be assessed with a certain degree of pessimism.

Suggested Citation

  • Aurel Croissant, 2008. "Social Groups, Political Forces and Democracy. A Structure-Driven Explanation of Democratic Transformation in Thailand," Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 27(2), pages 3-40.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:soaktu:v:27:y:2008:i:2:p:3-40

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