In This Review

Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand
Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand
By Duncan McCargo
Cornell University Press, 2020, 282 pp.

McCargo explores the complicated role of the judiciary in Thailand, where the military, often in league with the monarchy, overthrows elected officials and enforces laws that limit freedom of speech. His new book challenges simplistic interpretations of Thailand’s judges and courts as mere rubber stamps. Instead, he explains with empathy the career path of judges, their perceived special relationship with the crown, their passive collusion with military coups, and their draconian decisions in some of Thailand’s most spectacularly unjust cases of lese majesty and treason, which arose between 2006 and 2016. Rather than dismissing the judiciary as a tool of the military and the monarchy, McCargo uncovers a more ambivalent, messy, and ultimately ineffective organization. He argues convincingly that Thailand’s judges have sought to take up the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s charge to resolve Thailand’s intractable political crisis—a conflict that pits the established royal and military authorities against the political opposition elected by the majority of the population. However, McCargo dances around the inconven­ient fact that whatever their complexities, the judges tend to adjudicate cases in favor of the status quo.