Thai Politics in Translation: Monarchy, Democracy and the Supra-constitution.

AuthorConnors, Michael K.

Thai Politics in Translation: Monarchy, Democracy and the Supra-constitution. Edited by Michael K. Connors and Ukrist Pathmanand. Copenhagan, Denmark: NIAS Press, 2021. Softcover: 248pp.

Since 2006, political polarization in Thailand has led the military and monarchy to dominate national politics, pushing scholars to pose questions about the ensuing conflicts that have arisen. As suggested by its title, Thai Politics in Translation: Monarchy, Democracy and the Supra-constitution, offers a compilation of existing academic texts translated from Thai into English. These texts, as noted on the back cover, "invite readers to refrain from quick judgment and instead engage with the conservative norms of sections of the middle class, military, intellectuals and state ideologues".

The book includes seven articles, almost all of which have been translated for the first time. Although some translations of historical documents (from Thai into English) have been made available over the years, English translations of Thai academic texts are quite rare. This book is therefore of great value to English-speaking scholars who study modern Thai political ideology.

While the introductory chapter offers contemporary debates on the era of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (r. 1946-2016) and Chapter One provides summaries and contexts of each contribution of this volume, the subsequent chapters are translated texts covering other key aspects of contemporary Thai politics. These chapters are structured according to historical periods in the country's modern politics.

The introductory chapter provides fresh insights into current debates surrounding the concepts that characterize the Bhumibol era. One of the most interesting points is Kasian Tejapera's notion of the Bhumibol Consensus, explaining how the consensus among elite and social groups has been shaped by the king's hegemony. The chapter develops Kasian's concept of the periodization of consensus. As the chapter points out, before the 1970s, "the monarchy's position was subject to competing forces" (p. 8). Later, during the consensus period between the 1980s and the early 2000s, the King became "central to political life and enjoyed broad legitimacy" (p. 8). This chapter also suggests that to understand the Bhumibol Consensus, one should analyse the multiple political projects pursued by groups that contested each other under monarchical hegemony.

Chapter Two provides a translation of Somchai Preechasilpakul's article...

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