Keynote Speakers

KASIAN TEJAPIRA is a professor of political science at Thammasat University in Bangkok. He is the author of numerous academic publications and a score of books in both Thai and English. He is also a noted columnist, burgeoning poet, and was formerly a radical activist and guerrilla fighter in the jungle of northeastern Thailand.

Disguised Republic & Virtual Absolutism:
Two inherent conflicting tendencies in the Thai Constitutional Monarchy

The current inclination towards monarchical absolutism of the Thai government and politics is in essence the actualization of one of the two conflicting tendencies that have been inherent in Thai constitutional monarchy from the start. I intend to trace the political and scholarly discourse about them at some key junctures in modern Thai history. My main argument is that it had been the royal hegemony of King Rama IX that managed to maintain a relatively stable if tilted balance between the opposing principles of monarchy and democracy and keep the two opposite tendencies at bay. The perceived threat of a disguised republic under the Thaksin regime and the waning of royal hegemony led to a hyper-royalist reaction from the monarchical network that disrupted the pre-existing balance and prepared a potential ground for a virtual absolutism which has been taken over and actualized under the present regime.

SAICHOL SATTAYANURAK was a Thammasat University student during 1973-1976. After receiving her master’s degree in History in 1982, she was a lecturer of Department of History, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University. She moved to Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University in 1990. She is currently a professor emeritus of Chiang Mai University. Most of her works are about history of ideas and intellectual history, especially conservative ideologies and discourse. Her recent research supported by the Thailand Research Fund are “Thai Scholars and Contesting Democracy in Thailand amidst Political Crisis, 2005-2014” and “Methodology and the Body of Knowledge on Human and Culture from the works of Thai Humanities Scholars, Anthropologists and Political Scientists. In the year 2019 she was named TRF Senior Research Scholar and is currently supervising a research project entitled “Changes of Though, Value System, and Emotional regime of the Thai Middle Class, 1957-2017”

The Thai middle class and affective conservative ideology

Amid the flourishing of individualism and liberalism, conservatism remains a powerful force. The explanation of this irony lies in the way Thai elites have manipulated affective conservatism as an instrument to battle with their opponents. In other words, affective conservatism is the elites’ tool that has sustained decades-long hierarchical power relations. This affective conservatism has been internalized by a generation of the Thai middle class until it has become a dominant force guiding its emotional practices, ways of thinking, and value system. As the middle class benefits from conservatism, it has had a significant role in strengthening conservatism through its cultural practices.

Despite Thai society encountering various problems and challenges, essential adjustments of conservatism have not occurred. Hence, it has become meaningless to a new generation who desire a more liberal ideology, leaving the middle class in confusion and emotional tension.

AKIRA SUEHIRO has served as a Professor of Gakushuin University (2016-2021) and a Professor of the Institute of Social Science of the University of Tokyo (1992-2016, Director 2009-2012). He received M.A. in Economics (1976) and Ph.D. in Economics (1991) from the University of Tokyo. His academic concerns cover modern Asian economies, demographic changes and welfare system in East Asia, developmental states in Southeast Asia, and socio-economic transformation in Thailand. Major publications include Capital Accumulation in Thailand, 1855-1985 (1989), Thailand: Development and Democracy (1992 in Japanese), Catch-up Industrialization: The Trajectory and Prospects of East Asian Economies (2000 in Japanese; 2008 in English), Thailand: Challenges to a Middle-Income Country (2009 in Japanese), Emerging Asian Economies: Beyond the Catch-up Industrialization (2014 in Japanese), A History of Thailand (Chapter 7 Economy and Society of Contemporary Thailand, 2020 in Japanese), and others. He served as the President of the Japan Association for Asian Studies (JAAS, 2003-2005) and the President of the Japan Association for Thai Studies (2008-2011). He is currently a professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo.

Thailand’s Alternatives: Modernization, Thailand 4.0, and Social Justice

The birth of Thaksin Shinawatra administration started a new era of Thailand since he has challenged both traditional political regime (Thaksinocracy) and conservative economic policies (Thaksinomics). His strong leadership produced the absolute stability of the government, but also caused the instability of political regime. After the military coup in 2006, Thailand has experienced the worst pattern of coexistence of instability of the government and the instability of the political regime. In my keynote speech, I will focus on two different movements characterizing Thailand’s state and society during the period between 1990s and the present time. One is the modernization of state and the promotion of modern economy in conjunction with the IT progress and globalization. This movement was initiated by Prime Minister Thaksin in his program of KTMF (Kingdom of Thailand Modernization Framework), and was followed by the 20 years plan of “Thailand 4.0” led by Somkid economic team in the Prayut administration. The other is the alternative way which gives the priority on social development with the realization of social justice. This approach was partially introduced by the philosophy of sufficiency economy (setthakij phophiang), the idea of construction of resilient society (sangkhom khemkheng), and inclusive economic growth approach proposed by the NESDB (2013) and the World Bank team (2016). According to my observation, Thailand’s possible way is not the selection of one from two ways but a hybrid of two different ways from the standpoint of middle course (matchima).