The Political Economy of Decentralization in Thailand - Does Decentralization Allow for Peasant Participation?
One of the most important issues in rural development is empowerment and entitlement of farmers through participation. Decentralisation and participation are seemingly interdependent. Therefore, the paper begins with a theoretical discussion on the cause and effects of this interdependence. Decentralisation is often advertised as means to better incorporate the views and wishes of local actors. Yet, a decentralization process is no guaranty for political participation of local actors. The state induced decentralisation process in rural Thailand serves as an example to investigate forces that hamper or facilitate political participation. Change and uncertainty are inherent of political systems and the agricultural sector. Hence, this paper focuses in particular, on the last two politically turbulent decades in Thailand and its impact on political participation in rural Thailand. The Tambon Administration Organization (TAO) as one means of and likewise outcome of the decentralization process will serve as an example to discuss the effects of decentralisation on participation in the TAOs, using the concept of accountability. After increasing decentralization at the end of the 90s the last decade was coined by centralization policies. The ongoing political unrest could potentially trigger a new wave of political decentralization. However, the real reason for decentralization is not to distribute power but to maintain central effectiveness. Thus, we expect to see more decentralization without participation.
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