Understanding the Emergence of Political Villagers and State’s Counteraction in Northeast Thailand
Time & LocationSession 7
Thu 13:30–15:00 Room 1.308
- Wataru Fujita Osaka Prefecture University
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- Contesting Political Narratives and the Patterns of Social Networks in Thailand Illan Nam Colgate University
Viengrat Nethipo Chulalongkorn University
This work is a study of narratives that Thai politicians communicate with the voters in their constituencies. The content of narratives that successful politicians convey to build and maintain their linkage with the voters differ sharply between the north/northeast and the south. The contrast in these two regions, we argue, is shaped by the patterns of social networks in each locality. The contents of narratives and the way they are communicated are analyzed through in-depth interviews with several key political actors in these two regions. We focus especially on the contents that have played a significant role in rationalizing the polarization that took place in Thailand over the last decade, particularly the notions of representation, the meaning of citizenship, and visions for the future. To identify and categorize the pattern of social networks in the communities, we apply network analysis technique. The paper will thus draw analytical links between the patterns of social networks and the narratives in these two different regions. We assume that the closed and consistent pattern in the south shapes narratives that help maintain a politics of stagnancy, while in the north and northeast the cosmopolitan pattern of networks structures narratives that encourage dynamic politics.
- Mottled Imagination and Sympathy of Peasants: Considering Political Peasants from Livelihood Ecology Wataru Fujita Osaka Prefecture University
This paper considers Isan peasants’ motivations to support and participate in the “Red Shirt” movement by comparing two villages in Ubon Ratchathani province, Northeast Thailand. Special attention is paid to how such motivations are related to the transformation of livelihoods and lifestyles in both villages. In the first village, T, located in the Southern part of the province, the majority of the villagers apparently supported the movement, and many participated in it. In contrast, in the second village, N, located in Eastern part, only few villagers apparently expressed their support for the movement. I visited both villages and conducted interviews with villagers who supported and participated in the movement as well as those who were never interested. I also interviewed community-level leaders such as village headmen and kamnan (Sub-district level leader).
Key findings were as follows:
1) Those peasants who supported the movement felt strong sympathy with policies by the Thaksin administration, which provided various forms of assistance to the peasants, but those who did not do so instead emphasized that they relied on their own resources despite the fact that they eventually received available benefits from those policies.
2) In T village, agriculture is more mechanized; lifestyle is more market-dependent; and there remain fewer natural resources than in N village.
3) In T village, however, those who most actively participated in the movement did not necessarily benefit from the Thaksin administration’s policies.
4) It seems that relationships with village-level leaders or locally influential politicians (MPs or MP candidates) played a role in the villagers’ political thinking.
5) The number of households with satellite dishes (indicating their access to satellite media) is positively correlated with the support for the Red Shirt movement.
- Remobilization of Military-Dominated Mass Organizations in Thailand Puangthong R. Pawakapan Chulalongkorn University
State-dominated mass organizations were the essential component of the Thai state-counterinsurgency operations in the 1960s-1980s. The royalist popular defence was a political offensive measure against the communist movement. A demise of the communist threat led to the dissipation of their activities from public view. Evidences reveal that since the coup d’état in 2006, the Army and its political arm, the Internal Security Operations Command or ISOC have tried to revive and expand the popular base throughout the country. Old groups were reinvigorated and many new groups were created. Various kinds of incentives were injected into them. This paper argues that the remobilization and expansion of royalist popular base was a the Thai conservative elites’s response to the rise of the Red Shirt movement and the unabated popularity of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The foremost objective of the mass program is to protect the monarchy, the royal hegemony and status quo of the establishment. People became state surveillance over their neighbors and cyber activities. Besides, when the country was approaching the general election in May 2019, its members became potential voters for the NCPO-backed political party.
- Staying “Red”: How Ordinary Red Shirt Protesters in Thailand’s Northeast Maintain Their Political Identity Saowanee T. Alexander Ubon Ratchathani University
The deadly crackdown on the self-proclaimed pro-democracy Redshirt protesters in May 2010 was one of the most violent political incidents in Thailand’s modern history. Nearly 100 were killed and 2000 were injured. This is not to mention the fact that a number of protesters were jailed while some fled the country and lived in self-exile. Many of these protesters were ordinary people from Thailand’s North and Northeast. As the movement was recovering from the losses in a short-lived period under the rule of a democratically-elected government, a military coup took place in May 2014 that ousted the government. The protesters were immediately faced with another round of harsh suppressions under the junta government. It was not until the 2019 elections that the Red Shirts reappeared again despite in a more subtle way. This paper reports on findings from field research through interviews and observations aiming to understand how and why ordinary Redshirts continue their political identity despite the constant risks and dangers threatened by the elite-backed junta government and its conservative supporters. I argue that the Redshirts continue to struggle because they have not accomplished their political missions, but the challenges are so dangerous that they need to maintain their beliefs through innocuous daily-life activities, which in turn allow them to safely carry on their “Red” identity.
This panel examines the transformation of politics of the villagers in rural areas in Northeast Thailand (Isan), from multiple viewpoints including motivations, group identity, linkage to politicians or political parties, livelihood ecology, and their interaction with the military government. The main focus is the ‘Red-Shirt’ movement in Isan. Existing studies so far have argued about the socio-economic backgrounds of the Red Shirt participants in somehow generalized ways claiming that they are a newly emerging lower middle class engaged with commercial agriculture or small business, who is much benefited by the policies of the Thaksin administration. In this panel, in-depth examination of how the villagers did/not become ‘Red’ and how they have been maintaining their ‘redness’ until now.
Four papers in this paper take different methodological perspectives on the issues. Fujita’s anthropological study compares how environmental diversities in different geographical areas affected people’s economic and, hence, political preferences. Viengrat analyzes the transformation of Isan citizens by comparing politicians' narratives of Isan with those of other regions. Saowanee’s paper employs linguistic methods to examine how ordinary Red Shirt activists maintain their political identity. Puangthong examines the impact of military’s use of the Cold War-era methods to penetrate its control and influence in Isan area.