|Other Titles:||Stealing a Democratic Movement: The May 1992 Incident in Thailand|
|Author's alias:||Tamada, Yoshifumi|
|Abstract:||In May 1992, a Thai premier backed by the military was forced to resign after a bloody crackdown on a large anti-government rally. Scholars and political observers regard this incident as a crucial conjuncture in the democratization of Thai politics. This essay argues that the Thai middle class stole the credit from Chamlong, who was - objectively speaking - the undisputed leader of the democratization movement. This political expropriation was possible for three reasons. First, the king's neutral stance during the conflict did not favor Chamlong so much. Second, there was an orchestrated effort to blame Chamlong for the bloodshed. This campaign of vilification even involved members of the "democratic forces." Finally, success of the movement led to the mounting assertiveness of the middle class and the mass media that represented this class. Their boldness brought about the political reform that found its mark in the 1997 constitution. Yet, there also emerged a curious discourse during the struggle, wherein analysts assumed that the democratic movement was middle-class-dominated. These observers further took for granted that the middle class was inherently pro-democracy without providing evidence. Credit therefore had been overly focused on the middle class without any consideration of how the other classes figured in the movement. This essay suggests that the middle class also had a conservative element in it. This conservative faction regarded Chamlong as "too radical" in the sense that he resorted to street protests and politics outside the parliament - both of which they then regarded as taboo in Thai politics. As a result, Chamlong, whose political star rose in May 1992, was unable to maintain his high profile and moral standing. He was eventually forced to retire from politics, and his failure became a bitter lesson for those who sought to emulate him by mobilizing the mass in street politics. His withdrawal also further empowered his conservative and liberal opponents.|
|Appears in Collections:||No.1|
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