Securing an alternative army

The evolution of the Royal Thai Police 1

Authored by: Paul Chambers

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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The Royal Thai Police is an often overlooked yet enormous security actor in a country dominated by a partnership between the monarchy and military (as junior partner). This chapter examines the evolution of the police as agents of ruling regimes in a relationship in which they have been competitive with or controlled by the military. It asks: How have the Royal Thai Police evolved across time? What has been the character of police-military relations? What is the state of police influence in Thailand’s post-2014 era and beyond? This chapter first argues that the police, as a massive, quasi-independent security institution, have demonstrated a capacity to behave as an alternative army which has tended to fiercely resist military domination. As such, police-military rivalry has often degenerated into military attempts to control the police. Second, the chapter contends that the monarchy has generally favoured the army over the police while police have more often found their patrons in powerful elected civilians. Ultimately, the police – more amenable than the military to elected civilian rule – will continue seeking to defy military efforts to constrain its independence.

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