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Politics and the Rule of Law in Thailand: Reflections on Prospects for the 2011 Elections

Prof Duncan McCargo, Prof Peter Leyland, Dr Martin Gainsborough (co-chair), Dr Eva-Lotta Hedman (co-chair)
13 January 2011, 6.30pm, The Box


As Thailand is due to hold elections in 2011, the prospects for political stability and the rule of law remain uncertain. Indeed, Thai politics and society have seen deepening divisions in the face of large-scale street protests and military crackdowns. A full decade has passed since Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party won a landslide victory in the 2001 elections, the first to be held under the 1997 Constitution. Subsequent military and legal challenges to elected leadership have focused attention on unresolved conflicts of political representation and the rule of law in Thailand.

Closely connected to representative politics, bitterness and resentment continue to run high despite official talk of 'reconciliation' after the suppression of the protests and a vigorous clampdown on free speech last year, Duncan McCargo argues. He will analyse the prospects for the 2011 elections in Thailand, including the role of the military and the monarchical 'network' therein. Could the Democrat Party win power through elections? Could 'pro-Thaksin' parties regain the momentum to win a decisive victory at the polls? Or could other players - maverick coalition-makers or fledgling parties – play a crucial role?

Peter Leyland turns to the problems of establishing the rule of law in Thailand under the 1997 and 2007 Constitution. He argues that the present conflict has tended to overwhelm attempts to set out constitutional values and to build institutions insulated from political interference. In his presentation, he considers the role of law and legal institutions with particular reference to restrictions on free speech and the intervention of the Constitutional Court in relation to the dissolution of political parties.



Duncan McCargo is Professor of Southeast Asian politics at the University of Leeds. He has published widely on the politics of Thailand. His most recent book, Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand (2008) won the Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Prize.

peter leyland

Peter Leyland is Professor of Public Law at London Metropolitan University. He has published widely in the field of comparative constitutional law. Having authored the first volume in the Hart series 'Constitutional Systems of the World,' on the UK (2007), Leyland has also co-authored (with A. Harding) Thailand's Constitutional System: A Contextual Analysis (forthcoming 2011).


Dr Martin Gainsborough is Reader in Development Politics at the University of Bristol and co-convenor of the Pacific-Asia Specialist Group of the UK Political Studies Association. His recent publications include Vietnam: Rethinking the State (2010), and On the Borders of State Power: Frontiers in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (2009, editor).


Dr Eva-Lotta Hedman is Research Fellow in Southeast Asian International Affairs at LSE IDEAS. She is the author of In the Name of Civil Society: From Free Election Movements to People Power in the Philippines (2008) and Conflict, Violence and Displacement in Indonesia (2009, editor).



The Box, Level 5, Tower 3, London School of Economics.