The two faces of democracy

Authored by: Michael K. Connors

Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Thailand

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138558410
eBook ISBN: 9781315151328
Adobe ISBN:


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Ever since revolutionaries overthrew the Siamese absolutist monarchy in 1932 and placed the king under a constitution, the conditions for making the sovereignty of the people manifest have been at the heart of political contest. That contest gave rise to “two faces of democracy”: the rhetorically native or universal poise struck by adversaries across modern Thai history which framed distinctive political communities. However, it is also possible to speak of two-faced democracy (and not in a pejorative way) to recognise varying degrees of syncretism. In what follows, the reader should assume that scare quotes cling to “democracy”. Where the reader places them is a political choice. This chapter commences with a discussion of the two faces. They are selectively surveyed from the 1932 revolution up to the recent consolidation of the ideology of Democracy with the King as Head of State. The chapter concludes with that ideology’s failure in the early 21st century and the rise of an extraordinary dictatorship.

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