Knowledge – The State and Resistance in Thailand

Title: 1300 | Knowledge – The State and Resistance in Thailand
Area: Southeast Asia
Stream: Political Sciences
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Trin Aiyara, Walailak University, Thailand (organizer, presenter)
Veerayooth Kanchoochat, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), Japan (chair)
Naphon Phumma, Thammasat University, Thailand (presenter)
Tanadej Vechsuruck, University of Rhode Island, United States (presenter)
Anusorn Chaiaksornwet, Waseda University, Japan (presenter)


Recent works on Thai politics have investigated pressing issues such as statecraft and resistance. Privileging the lens of ideology, they have analyzed how different political orientations and discourses shape state policy, claims of legitimacy, as well as resistance from below. This panel looks at these issues through the lens of knowledge. It explores how different kinds of knowledge, including fiscal management, health governance, transportation development, and religious cosmology inform state policies, discourses of legitimacy and resistance. Drawing from different disciplines and areas of expertise, the panelists ask questions including: How have competing ideas about fiscal management shaped certain patterns of state’s spending? How have international crises such as the spread of SARS in 2003 changed the healthcare system? How have transportation development plans reflected contested ideas regarding Thailand’s political and economic priorities? How have opposing camps invoked traditional Buddhist cosmology to legitimize simultaneously military coups and electoral democracy? With all these questions, the panel contributes to ongoing debates on Thai politics, in particular with relation to statecraft, legitimacy, and resistance.

Panel Abstracts:
Expansionism and Austerity in the State-led Connectivity Improvement: The Ambition and Anxiety of the Transportation policy of the Thai State
In recent years, the policy to invest in mega projects of transportation infrastructure has been one of the most contentious topics in Thailand. On the one hand, some leading figures, for example, politicians in the elected government, have supported the expansionist infrastructure projects to stimulate economic growth and cement their political bases. On the other hand, the economic technocrats or policy critics have preferred the austerity in the infrastructure development to the expansionist packages since they have prioritized the economic and financial returns rather than political gains. The contestation of these conflicting ideas has shaped the ambition and anxiety of the Thai state which has recognized both infrastructural power and fiscal burden, generated by the construction of megaprojects of the transportation system. This paper specifically examines the cases the land transportation policies, including railways, highways, and high-speed railways, to reveal how different sets of ideas in managing the economy led to the formulation of the state actions in improving infrastructure. This paper also suggests that the conflicts in the ideas can affect the realization of the projects. This paper concludes that the contestation over the formulation and implementation of the transportation policy has reflected not only material conflicts but also ideational competition.

Populist Policies and the Echo Chamber: How Policymakers and their Critics view the Demand-Sided Policies in Thailand (co-presented with Tanadej Vechsuruck)
Recently in Thailand, there has been a remarkable divergence of opinions between the policy proposers—politicians, bureaucrats, and technocrats—whose decisions have determined economic policies in the country and the policy critics—columnists, researchers, and economic theorists. While the policy proposers have found themselves in a current of the populist politics and believed that demand-sided policies have been unavoidable for both political and economic purposes, the textbook-minded critics, on the contrary, has asked for a hand-off government and any policy, if necessary, that should be supply-sided aiming for a long-run economic growth. In our view, the critiques based on supply-driven economics are misled and incomplete to fully understand populist policies. This paper attempts to analyze this recent divergence of opinions and argue that the confined policy innovation has been a matter of knowledge shortage in both the former and the latter. It also suggests that unorthodox schools of thought such as Post-Keynesian can provide a theoretical foundation for innovating demand-sided policies that are politically viable in the short-run and economically impactful in the long-run.

Revisiting SARS and the Transformation of Thai State’s Public Health: They Dynamic Interaction of State Actor and Process in Regional Health Governance
The recent outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus reminds us how the epidemic has been a severe and renewed transnational threat to the state and human security. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, caused by one type of coronavirus, in 2003, transformed Southeast Asian states profoundly in handling the threat to their “health security.” Moreover, this epidemic contributed to the development of the WHO-formal declaration of Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which states have a legal duty to respond promptly under the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR). This paper proposes the framework of “regional health governance,” which analyzes the dynamic interaction between state actors and processes in global and regional health. The paper also revisits the SARS outbreak in 2003 by examining how the Thai state has engaged in this public health emergency and transformed its governmental agencies, especially in the health field. Hence, the Thai state has involved with the evolving global health governance and emerging regional health governance. Since 2004, several regional arrangements and meetings have been initiated and developed in Southeast Asia. The lessons learned from the SARS outbreak as a transnational threat to the state’s health security will provide some assessments to what extent Thailand can effectively cope with the Novel Coronavirus epidemic, which will once again transform Asian states’ public health

This panel is on Thursday - Session 02 - Room 4

Go to Room 4