Seminar: 85 Years of Democratic Construction and Destruction: Thailand towards Absolutism

On June 24, 1932, the People’s Party (Khana Ratsadon) staged a bloodless coup d'état and overthrew the absolute monarchy in Thailand. "The 1932 Siamese Revolution" marked the beginning of democracy in the country. The old regime was changed into a parliamentary system and the monarchy was placed under the constitution.

Unfortunately, this democratic construction was repeatedly interrupted by the Army and by Royal intervention, with more than 12 coup d'états which were often followed by prolonged military dictatorships. Over 85 years, the country enacted 20 constitutions -  most of which were written under the direction of military dictators with an average survival rate of 4 years. During the last 45 years, Thai people have struggled for freedom and democracy against various military regimes. There have been numerous uprisings against undemocratic regimes, with the most significant occurring in October, 1973; May, 1992; and May, 2010.

In the last decade, Thailand has experienced a political and social crisis with no end in sight. This crisis is characterised by a deep divide within Thai society: supporters of democracy and opponents of the coup on one side, and anti-democracy and pro-coup groups on the other. Both sides have their own colour symbols (Red shirts and Yellow shirts). This division exists everywhere across the country and has deeply affected communities, families and individuals, undermining trust and preventing people from speaking openly about their ideas. The political struggle between these two camps has created a series of political crises that continue to this day.

The aristocrats, the conservatives, the royalists, and even some of the middle class, took the Yellow shirt side, declaring themselves against democracy and elected political parties. They called on the Army to instigate the last coup on May 22, 2014. The National Committee for Peace and Order (NCPO) not only severely violated human rights but is also attempting to destroy the largest political party, pro-democracy politicians, and people’s movements. The NCPO created the motto “Bring back happiness to the people and protect nation, religion, and king” and is attempting to establish a new regime, which would permit the military to continually control Thailand and to undermine the representative role of politicians. Thai people have been relegated from politics and have been marginalised in the civil participation in their country’s administration. The NCPO also tries to invent a unique dictatorial regime that they claim is appropriate for Thai society: “Thai democracy with sufficient economy”, which they use to demonstrate to the world that the Thai junta is not a dictatorship.

On December 1, 2016 Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun ascended the Throne and became King Rama X, the 10th monarch of the Chakri dynasty. The reign of the new king is unpredictable, but the direction seems to be towards absolutism. The Royal Service Administration Act 2017 and other interventions by King Rama X confirm this tendency.

Three years after the coup d'état, Thailand today is not only controlled by military power but also by the fear of reprisals from the absolute ‘divine’ power. Given the political repression in Thailand itself, this seminar on, "Thailand towards Absolutism" will provide a space for crucial analyses and discussions on this worrisome trend and its consequences for the country.

We hope this seminar can:

- open-up discussions on and analyse the trend towards absolutism in Thailand from the perspectives of prominent academics and professionals. The afternoon lecture will contribute to audiences inside Thailand.

Advance registration is required. Please send your request to asienhaus@asienhaus.de



09.00 – 12.00    
Thailand towards Absolutism

Panel Discussion


Gilles Ji Ungpakorn

Nicola Glass

Andrew MacGregor Marshall

Moderator: Dr Oliver Pye

12.00-13.30        Lunch at Asienhaus


13.30-16.00        King Vajiralongkorn and the future of Democracy

Speaker:             Dr. Somsak Jeamteeraskul


Advance registration is required. Please send your request to asienhaus@asienhaus.de

Veranstalter: Stiftung Asienhaus

Veranstaltungsort: Stiftung Asienhaus, Hohenzollernring 52, 50672 Köln

Details & Anfahrt: Stiftung Asienhaus

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von Südostasien-Informationsstelle / philippinenbüro / Stiftung Asienhaus