In This Review

Legitimacy Crisis in Thailand (King Prajadhipok's Institute Yearbook)
Legitimacy Crisis in Thailand (King Prajadhipok's Institute Yearbook)
By Marc Askew
Silkworm Books, 2010, 320 pp

The Thailand- and Singapore-based contributors to this volume diagnose what ails Thailand with clinical clarity. According to Michael Montesano, two significant structural flaws are the growth of the income gap since the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis and an unresponsive, overcentralized local administrative system. Those factors -- along with an excessively powerful monarchy and the rise of a Thai version of Peronism centered around former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra -- led directly to the current crisis, which began with a 2006 military coup that drove Thaksin from power and climaxed with deadly riots in Bangkok in 2010. Rural dissatisfaction fed Thaksin’s Red Shirt movement; vested interests supported the countervailing, pro-monarchy Yellow Shirt movement, motivated by an atavistic nationalist fervor. The courts, the media, and the military were all drawn into the battle. The crisis is now entering its sixth year, with all the main political parties delegitimized and the king in poor health. What once seemed to be a promising parliamentary democracy looks set for a long period of trouble.