Essay On The Struggle Of Democracy In Thailand
Thailand has been known as the “Land of Coups” due to the number of coups and attempted coups than any other countries in the world. Since the revolution in 1932 that marks the end of absolute monarchy in the country, a series of sporadic military interventions happened in the country that totaled to around 19 successful and attempted coups. The continuous military takeovers make Thailand known in the aspect of international politics. It has been Thailand’s way to overthrow their government through military actions that makes the coup culture become a normal political movement in resolving political unrest and conflicts. The understanding of the long standing coup culture in Thailand compromises democracy overturning its cry over and over again. There are various factors that contribute to the continuous military interventions in the government system of Thailand. One major contributory factor is the historical consequence of monarchial dissolution that divided the political elites into various factions. Other factors come from the cultural and social discipline with contributions of the religious aspects into making coup as common norms in Thailand’s political system.
Political History of Thailand
Thailand has long been a country with absolute monarchy led by royal families. In the year 1932, a successful revolutionary coup d’état absolved the monarchial absolutism to Constitutional Monarchy. The absolute power of the crown was removed and replaced with nascent democracy. The successful coup of the elite that overthrew the monarchial government then became a historical account that the Thais repeatedly commemorate by following that event every time there is a conflict encountered in their political system. Remarkable repetitions of the coups happened in 1991 and 2006, and other periods.
The already in-place form of government since 1932 has been followed by various kings. The kings serve as the country’s spiritual leader but they have no outright authority in the country’s government. There is a Prime Minister in Thailand that leads the political affairs of the country. Since the establishment of the new form of government, the people of Thailand have always been politically active and continuously argue the supposed to be in place democracy in the land. The advent of democracy in Thailand has led a turbulent political flow in the country. There are around 19 coup d’états between the military and the elite bureaucracy. The country also ruled out 17 constitutions already where the most recent constitution made is a product of another coup in 2006 that overthrew the then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawattra.
The unique form of government in Thailand is worldly renowned. Unlike the United Kingdom, the Thailand king is referred as the Head of the State but only in the Spiritual aspects of the country. He has no hold on the political authority that governs the land. Currently, His majesty King Bhumibol Adulydej rules out Thailand. The King ascended the throne right after the death of his brother. He holds the longest reigning monarch in the history of Thailand and in the whole world. Regardless of the fact that the King holds no political authority, he remains to be the symbol of the country’s national identity. He commands the popular respect and the authority in the country’s morality. The King and the other members of the Royal family have been revered by the people of Thailand. The people acknowledge their passionate commitment in upholding the welfare of the people. Respect for the Royal family is safeguarded by the law. Thus, any form of disrespect and other social disparage towards them is punishable by the law. The King resides in the grand Palace located in Bangkok (TAT, 2015).
Today, the outcome of the revolution that happened in Thailand in the 1932 is hailed as the most peaceful and bloodless revolution throughout out the world. The success of the coup was partly credited to the participation of the colonels and other colorful personalities where all of them belong to the elite group having the prestige of outstanding backgrounds in education and high positions in the militia. The elite’s participation catalyzed the political reformation from then on. In fact, there is a long list of military interventions that followed the remarkable event in 1932. When the new King took the throne in 1946, Thailand was under a firm military dictatorship. There were series of coups that happened to overthrow elected government officials. It can be noted that the government of Thailand has been ruled by loose groups of Coup Parties. With the pressures from the America, many leftists are born and push Coup Groups all the more to fit in the politics of Thailand. The roots of Thailand coups lay in the legislative threats from bureaucratic privileges, various factional politics, and the pressure from the younger officers of military to do away from the democratic traps to protect their respective political bases (Farelly, 2013).
The surge of coups in the various stages of Thailand’s political era already proved results. Thus, many ordinary people and the traditional elite approve of the coup. The popular acquiescence of using military powers to throw democratic government has grown due to the popular propensity, their faith in the military’s firm authority, the identifiable difference between violence and democracy, and the day to day attitudes of the people of Thailand. However, recent coups have been done in the name of democracy. The National Peace Keeping Council that ousted the elected Prime Minister in 1991 has surprised Thailand and the rest of the world thinking that the Parliamentary Democracy has grown in strength. However, the coup ended this another form of government that proves that coups in Thailand is still vigilant as ever and is not just a thing of the past (Farrelly, 2013).
The Contribution of Buddhism in the Continuous Coup in Thailand
Thailand’s current form of government is Constitutional Monarchy. It is similar with UK and England. The major religion of Thailand is composed of 93% Buddhism, 5% Muslim, and 1% Christianity. Buddhism as a religion lacks social ethics. Thailand is a good example in the framework of Buddhism in the political aspect. The social ethics of Buddhism provides opportunities for the socio-political examination of the issues in various perspectives. In reality, many of the Buddhist monks in Thailand are part of a unified hierarchal community of monks. These groups are actually controlled by the government. They eat the foods donated to them by the other people due to extreme poverty. These Buddhists seek freedom and liberation via the meditation practice.
There is limited literature about the ethics of Buddhism. The concept of justice for example is seldom mentioned in the many contexts about Buddhism. Buddha, the originator of Buddhism grew up in a system of despotism, where powerful monarchs rule and held supreme over the land. The political foundations of Buddhist ruler is likely applicable to emperors and kings. Thus, it lacks the perspective from a lowly citizen. The discipline of ethics and politics are considered redundant. The many predomination Buddhist countries are all under one ruling of monarchy. Democracy is not practiced and there are no avenues to fit the demands of the common people (Keown, 2005). Hence, there is a conflict in the applicability of democracy where Buddhism is the main practice due to the absence of code of ethics that would serve as foundation for freedom. Instead, what is embedded in the code of ethics for the Buddhism revolves in the ruling of monarchy
There are so called engaged Buddhism that is concerned with the conduct of individuals towards social issues such as poverty, environment, politics, and social justice. Engaged Buddhism has become a popular vehicle that involves Buddhist in the social concerns. Buddhist principles and values have been used nowadays for various forms of protests, boycotts, campaigns, and even coups. This form of Buddhism emphasizes the connection of the individual with te economic, social, and political concerns. Thus, Buddhists are dragged into socio-political concerns involving ordinary lives of individuals, their families, and communities. Engaged Buddhism then opens up minds of people to the human right issues, environmental concerns, and other non-violent propagandas (Keown, 2005).
Buddhism Takes no Part in Thailand’s Coup Culture
Buddhism has no relevance to the political realms since the impetus of the belief came from a renouncer Buddha that rejected the social life and the hypocritical religious system. As exemplified in the Hindu Dharma tradition, Buddhism shies away from political affairs. Buddhism is both relativistic and altruistic. It’s relativistic span includes flexibility giving distinction between customs and norms. It is absolutistic such that certain conditions are deemed immoral such as hatred and greed. The Buddhist ethical teachings are objective in accordance to nature. The validity of things accords to the enlightenment of the reasoned. Buddhism is then considered more as an ethical philosophy dealing more with the individual rather than the conduct of the whole society. In fact, one of the precepts of Buddism about the Order of Inter-being states that Buddhism must not be used for personal profit or in, and even used to transform a community into factions of political parties (Keown, 2005).
The culture of coups that started with a remarkable peaceful revolution in Thailand during the 1932 has magnified that change in the perspective of the world and in the eyes of the Thailand people. The political experimentation that followed then produces various sides in the political aspects stirring up the masses to their preference of government. Thus, various factions have evolved throughout history. These factions lead by the elite have voices that are easily heard by the masses. Any form of political unrest and slight conflicts then connote coups and attempted coups in hope to have their political aspirations achieved. Through the series of coups, Thailand people has got used to them and even treated this political action as norms. Buddhism in some way influenced the coups through the formation of culture in Thailand. Although most of the code of ethics of Buddhism lay passive towards the political specifics, but, it has inculcated values and virtues upon the citizens that dictates their response towards the series of coups that occurred. Unless there is a massive purging of the culture of coup in Thailand, its political form of governance would stay immature as it is now. Democracy will then continue its struggle.
Farrelly, Nicholas. (2013). “Why democary struggles: Thailand’s elite coup culture”. Australian
Keown, D. (2005). “Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction”. Oxford University Press.
TAT. (2015). “Politics”. Tourism Authority of Thailand. Bangkok: Thailand.