The Thai Political Crisis of 2014: Necessary Cultural and Historical Background

Memo #303

By Jim Placzek – james.placzek [at]

Jim PlaczekThe key to understanding the current crisis in Thailand is Thai national identity. For decades a government office has been successfully promoting symbols of this identity. The central symbol of that identity is the monarchy. The elite of Thailand, including the military, have been called “the network monarchy”and… Continue reading

The Paradox of Women Leaders in Asian Democracies

Memo #277

By   Timothy S. Rich – [at]

Political life in Asian countries is often characterized as a man’s world, especially compared to its Western counterparts. Yet we have also seen increasing political leadership opportunities for women in the region. Since 2000 alone, women have been elected prime minister in Bangladesh and Thailand, and elected president… Continue reading

Thailand Increases Controls on Cyberspace Through Use of Archaic Laws

Memo #193 – Laws meant to protect the monarchy from “defamation” are increasingly being used to suppress free speech and discussion of politics in Thailand, particularly on the Internet. In the last six years, there has been a surge in prosecution of these “lèse-majesté” cases – some estimated as high as 1,500 per cent. Continue reading

Thailand and Turkey: Challenges to Elite and Military Rule

Memo #180 – Thailand and Turkey have a lot in common. Both countries celebrate their avoidance of formal colonization by adopting Westernizing adjustments overseen by “modernizing” rulers in the 19th century. Both have followed similar state-led economic development trajectories in the 20th century, only to liberalize after the 1980s. Both are known for military interventions in the electoral process. Both are highly nationalistic and devoted to national myths of development centred around revered figures. Continue reading

Is ‘Safe Migration’ Along the Thai-Lao Border Truly ‘Safe?’

Memo #157 – Since the late 1990s, international organizations and NGOs have engaged with labour migrants in the Mekong region. This includes either advocating for migrants’ rights, or launching anti-trafficking programs. More recently, the term “safe migration” has surfaced within policy circles and the broader aid community with several organizations implementing “safe migration” programs. Continue reading

Exporting “Tough on Crime” Policy to Thailand: Harper’s Recent Visit

Memo #148 – Human smuggling and terrorism – not trade – played centre stage in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Thailand in March. Although the Thai government was eager to solicit more interest in trade during a visit that marked the 50th anniversary of Canada-Thailand relations, it was left with $7 million (CDN) for an anti-crime program and an “exploratory” talk on free trade. Continue reading

Thailand Post-election Analysis: Crisis and Opportunity

Memo #97 – The highest voter turnout in history shows Thai voters still view elections as the most legitimate way to transfer power. 75 per cent of eligible voters participated in last week’s election. Pheu Thai took 40 per cent of the vote, gained 265 out of 500 seats, and together with five other parties will form a 300-seat coalition government – an impressive result for a party whose predecessors were ousted by a coup d’état in 2006, twice dissolved, and had their politicians banned from politics for five years. Continue reading

Never-married Women in Southeast Asia

Memo #96 – In Southeast Asia the proportion of women who remain single past their childbearing years has been increasing. The figure tends to be higher among women who have tertiary education. There are significant implications when the number of never-married women becomes large: in Southeast Asia, women who do not marry tend not to have children and this will affect fertility levels. Also, what social identity will these women take in the absence of the wife-mother role? Continue reading

Thai-Cambodian Border Clashes – What is Fuelling them?

Memo #80 – Since the end of April 2011, fighting between the Thai and Cambodian armies along their disputed border killed 18 people, injured over 120, and displaced nearly 100,000 villagers. Since hostilities began in July 2008, border clashes have now left at least 28 dead and some 150 injured. The conflict is centred around three ancient temples built by Khmer kings nearly a thousand years ago. But most analysts contend that territory is not the driving concern, rather it is fuelled by domestic politics in both countries. Continue reading

Fully Ordained Nuns in Theravada Buddhism

Memo #62 – There are no fully ordained nuns, or Bhikkhunis, in Theravada Buddhism. Last year, after 35 years in the West, the Theravadin Thai Forest Tradition found that the ordination of nuns had become a flashpoint. The Western monks are willing to adapt, but require consensus with senior conservative monks in Thailand. In the end, the issue of nuns’ ordination may be decided by senior Canadian monks. Continue reading