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  • OPINION

    Thailand needs to arrive in 21st century

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 03/11/2017

    » Thai politics is fundamentally not about the colours of yellow versus red or of democratic rule against military dictatorship. At its core, modern Thailand is about the socio-political and developmental totality of the past seven decades from 1947 to 2017 during the 9th reign, divided into the first five and the last two, demarcated by the Cold War and the 21st century. For Thailand to arrive in the 21st century, it needs to reconcile the overlapping forces of these two eras that now harbour conflicting interests and preferences through compromise and mutual accommodation. This is now the existential task ahead after King Bhumibol Adulyadej's glorious reign.

  • OPINION

    Thais, their late King and the last goodbye

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 20/10/2017

    » Context will be hard to come by this coming week as Thais bid farewell to their late monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and his 70-year reign whose light gave out on Oct 13 last year. There is a mismatch of seeing Thailand today with all of its modernity and cosmopolitanism compared to how the country was shaped and formed in earlier decades. To understand the spectacle and outpouring of grief and respect this week leading to the cremation of King Bhumibol next Thursday, it is instructive to look back at the distance Thailand has travelled from where it began rather than its direction and destination, which are important but for another time.

  • OPINION

    Royal transition explains military's grip

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 13/10/2017

    » Hindsight will look back at Thailand's prolonged political interregnum after the military coup on 22 May 2014 with perplexity and astonishment. It will be remembered as a time of junta rule in a country that had overthrown military dictatorships repeatedly in 1973 and 1992. This time, the self-styled strongman from the barracks was Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who would end up in office for longer than most elected leaders before him. There will be many questions and criticisms of Gen Prayut's tenure and rule but undergirding them will be his unrivalled role a year ago today, on 13 Oct 2016, with the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The consequent royal transition is likely to be viewed in posterity as the principal reason why the Thai people have had to put up with Gen Prayut.

  • OPINION

    Thailand counts down to final, fond October

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 06/10/2017

    » For the past four decades, the month of October has carried certain meanings and implications associated with a left-leaning student-led civil society uprising that overthrew a military dictatorship and a right-wing military-led suppression that crushed mostly university students and chased them into the jungle to join the local communist party.

  • OPINION

    Cambodia leads regional authoritarianism

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 22/09/2017

    » The warm hug on Sept 7 between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, said it all. Authoritarian rule is ascendant in Southeast Asia. It now poses an existential challenge to human rights and democratisation all over the region. And Cambodia is leading Southeast Asia's authoritarian ways, followed not far behind by neighbours, such as Thailand.

  • OPINION

    Myanmar's Rohingya issue handled poorly

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 08/09/2017

    » Less than a year after its last major upsurge in communal violence underpinned by religious tensions between Buddhism and Islam, the northern section of Myanmar's western Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh is again beset with another bout of similar turmoil and bloodshed. The pattern of conflict and violence this time is similar to late last year but the scale and scope are much wider and more lethal. At its root, the ongoing violence in Rakhine is more mixed than the Manichean images of good versus evil being portrayed in the international media.

  • OPINION

    A way out after two trials in two decades

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 25/08/2017

    » Once again, Thailand is gripped by another high-profile court trial in yet another round of political brinkmanship. The much anticipated verdict today on Yingluck Shinawatra's handling of the rice-pledging scheme while in office is reminiscent of her eldest brother Thaksin Shinawatra's assets concealment case 16 years ago. In fact, Thailand's political landscape so far in the 21st century can now be book-ended by these two politicised cases that are likely to end up with different outcomes while going in the same direction. In turn, the Yingluck verdict can serve as another reminder of what Thailand needs to do to move on from its two-decade political malaise underpinned by half a dozen elections, violent street protests, and two military coups.

  • OPINION

    Thailand amid Asean economic integration

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 11/08/2017

    » The first year and a half of the Asean Community has transpired not with a bang but a whimper. Thailand's role in it has been correspondingly uneventful. The first 18 months of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), one of three pillars together with the Asean Political-Security Community and Asean Socio-Cultural Community, witnessed no fundamental or qualitative differences from trade and investment patterns prior to its introduction. If the AEC is to work out as intended, it has to be reshaped and reoriented from traditional lenses to new realities based on intra-regional investments in tandem with global value chains.

  • OPINION

    Asean regionalism amid authoritarianism

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 05/08/2017

    » If three Asean members -- Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines -- have led the way in shedding their authoritarian past, three others -- Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia --have gone the other way. After 50 years of ups and downs in domestic politics and governance, Asean has seen a resurgence of authoritarian practices. How this trend is manifested, and whether it intensifies or reverts to more democratic characteristics, will determine how Asean's regionalism takes shape over the next few decades.

  • OPINION

    Asean test ground for democracy, dictators

    News, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Published on 04/08/2017

    » Much is being discussed in Southeast Asia this month as Asean, the region's premier organisation, reaches its golden jubilee. One salient issue is the domestic politics and governance within individual Asean states and across them. Asean comprises a mix of regimes that span the spectrum from absolute monarchy in Brunei to newly emergent democracy in Myanmar and socialist-community rule in Laos and Vietnam, with many shades in between. How Asean's regime types evolve and behave will be consequential and potentially decisive for the organisation's coherence and effectiveness in broader Asian regionalism.

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