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Political crisis ‘is a clash of regimes, not colour groups’

Jun 19. 2017
Seksan Prasertkul
Seksan Prasertkul
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‘State elites’ feel threatened by ‘modern elites’ in tussle for power, intellectual says

THAILAND’S political crisis is not the result of an ideological clash between colour-coded political groups, but a clash between the two regimes of “Modern elites” and “State elites”, Seksan Prasertkul, a noted political scientist and social thinker, has said.

The latter, he said, has been trying to re-establish its power via the writing of new rules and regulations, including the new charter.

Seksan, former dean of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Political Science, was speaking at Direk’s Talk, an annual event to commemorate the faculty’s founder, Direk Jayanama, one of the People’s Party members who led the revolution in 1932.

“The problem is more critical beyond the clash between individuals or groups. It’s a clash between different regimes that has reflected the imbalance of power in the |political and social structure of Thai society. It has led to a new round of |competition for political space and power, at the regime-based level,” |he said.

Modern elites, he said, have been empowered by modern-day democracy and backed by “the mass”. State elites, with bureaucracy and power under their control feel threatened as a result of the ‘Modern elites’.

New discourses such as “bad or corrupt politicians” have been applied to not only certain groups of politicians but to whole groups and the regime they are in, he said.

Since the coup, he said the junta had not just fixed immediate issues, but come up with strategies to drive the country into the future.

“Considering what they have been doing, this is not an interim government, but the rulers who have a clear mindset and wish to change the world as they think it should be,” said Seksan, who is also a former student leader who fought against dictatorship in the 1973 massacre.

Seksan said the “State elites” and their norms have been challenged or at some point eroded by globalisation and capitalism. With the writing of new rules and regulations, the new charter has become the tool they use to rearrange power relationships in the society.

With the new charter in place, the “State elites” not only wish to reclaim and re-establish their lead in society to cement their security, but also expand this through an increase of bureaucratic power as addressed in the charter. They have attempted to prolong their hold with long-term national strategies and plans, and drive their desire through “master plans”, with the two key policies of Thailand 4.0 to handle pressure from globalisation and capitalism, and the Pracha Rat policy to rearrange political relationships.

Seksan doubted that the two policies could work in harmony with capitalism as they are different and contradictory. This would create more gaps and woes in society.

However, the junta has attempted to challenge society, politicians in particular, whether they can come up with better offers in terms of |ideologies and plans to lead the country “as grand as” the junta’s.

Society under Thailand 4.0 and Pracha Rat – under which bureaucracy takes a leading and coordinating role between private entities and citizens – projects two scenerios: politics, under which politicians would become “State elite clans”, or new politics with creative policies to truly lead society. 

The junta has managed to re-establish its power, although nobody can say how sustainable it is. Politics, he said, was about competition of power and as the “State elites” come to play politics, there is a fear that conflict will remerge, as well as changes in politics once again, Seksan said.

“The attempt to rearrange power and relationships without considering an equilibrium by pushing hard conservatism is equivalent to creating a new social friction or a time-bomb from the beginning,” he concluded.

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