In this webinar, Prof Duncan McCargo shares his insights from working on his latest book (Future Forward – The Rise and Fall of a Thai Political Party, co-authored with Anyarat Chattharakul) in which he examine the rapid success and demise of the short-lived Future Forward Party in Thailand and what drove the phenomenon.
In this webinar, Dr Punchada Sirivunnabood addressed a set of scenarios for the near-term future of Thai politics, touching on challenges to the stability of the government, and especially the role of the young generation in politics; on the role of the opposition parties; on the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and on conflicts within the Phalang Pracharat Party.
THAILAND STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR
About the Seminar
This presentation examines the impact of China’s economic regionalism on sites of intensified resource extraction in the Mekong borderlands. In particular, a Chinese-driven banana boom and the penetration of overland Chinese entrepreneurs have turned farmland along the Mekong River on the Thai-Laos borders into banana production factories and export processing zones over the past decade. It is argued that the Chinese banana industry’s practice of ‘shifting plantations’ has transformed the Mekong borderlands into agricultural frontiers that allow for specific and intensive regimes of resource extraction.
The Mekong Region, especially Laos, has been identified as an ideal place for land acquisitions by Chinese banana-producing investors. In all banana plantations, vast quantities of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are required to maintain monoculture production. This process poses serious health risks to workers and the surrounding environment. After 6 to 10 years of producing fruit on cleared farmland, the company usually abandons it for another plot once factors such as soil depletion and pest infestation begin to lower yields. Since 2016, the government of Laos has issued a ban on new banana plantations. The shifting plantation practices, however, have spread to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, wreaking health and environment havoc along its path.
The case of Chinese banana plantations in Laos is a striking example of some of the challenges posed by Beijing’s economic influence in Southeast Asia.
About the Speaker
Yos Santasombat is Professor of Anthropology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, and Senior Research Scholar, Thailand Research Fund. He is currently a Visiting Fellow in the Thailand Studies Programme of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. He is the author of numerous books, including Lak Chang: A Reconstruction of Tai Identity in Daikong (Canberra: Pandanus Books, ANU, 2001), Biodiversity, Local Knowledge and Sustainable Development (Chiang Mai: RSCD, 2003, 2014), Flexible Peasants: Reconceptualising the Third World’s Rural Types (Chiang Mai: RCSD, 2008), The River of Life: Changing Ecosystems of the Mekong Region (Chiang Mai: Mekong Press, 2011), as well as the edited volumes Impact of China’s Rise on the Mekong Region (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and Chinese Capitalism in Southeast Asia: Cultures and Practices (Springer, 2017).
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.