Seminar: The Thai Military’s Civil Affairs Projects: From Counter-Insurgency to Counter-Democracy
About the Seminar
Unlike the Indonesian military’s role in the civilian affairs during the Guided Democracy and the New Order periods, the Thai military’s extensive involvement in various civilian affairs projects has attracted little attention from scholars. Within Thailand’s armed forces, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) was the main agency charged with carrying out a wide range of civilian affairs projects during the counter-insurgency period. Its activities included rural development, creating mass organisations and mobilisation campaigns, and psychological operations. However, the demise of communism did not see the winding up of ISOC or the end of its activities. Indeed, after the coup of May 2014 that toppled the elected government led by the Phuea Thai party, ISOC became more active and powerful in supporting the military government of General Prayut Chan-ocha and suppressing its political opponents. These activities have led human rights advocates to brand ISOC “a state within the state”.
The seminar presents the preliminary results of a study of the Thai military’s civilian affair activities. It argues that the power of Thai military lies not only in its use of forces but also in its socio-political and economic arms. These represent a potent tool with which conservative elites can undermine and control electoral democracy. In this seminar, the speaker will focus on the current extensive duties and power of ISOC, on its origins, development, justification and legitimacy.
About the Speaker
Puangthong Pawakapan is Associate Professor at Department of International Relations, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. She is currently a Visiting Senior Fellow in the Thailand Studies Programme of the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. Her first fellowship at ISEAS was between July 2014 and January 2015, when she worked on “The Foreign Press’ Changing Perceptions of Thailand’s Monarchy.” Trends in Southeast Asia. (ISEAS, 2015). Between August 2010 and June 2011, she was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, when she worked on the publication State and Uncivil Society in Thailand at the Temple of Preah Vihear, (ISEAS, 2013). Between May 1998 and May 1999, she was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Cambodian Genocide Program, Yale University, where she wrote “Thailand’s Response to the Cambodian Genocide”, in Sue Cook (ed.), Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda: New Perspectives, (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 2006). Her principal interests are in Thailand’s relationship with its neighbours and contemporary political conflict.