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Thai flag: Waving flag of Thailand by Xiengyod licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED. Hue modified.

Raymond, Gregory V. “8: The Stubborn Illiberalism and Trialectical Dynamics of Thailand’s Civil–Military Relations”. In Asian Military Evolutions, (Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press, 2023) accessed Dec 11, 2023


This chapter posits that Western models of civil–military relations do not apply in Thailand for three key reasons. First, Thailand’s status as the sole uncolonized country of Southeast Asia has allowed greater continuity with its pre-colonial era political philosophies than in many other states. The end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, in particular, did not extinguish precolonial ideas of kingship and social order. Today, the division between the military and civilians is less important than a hierarchy that places kharatchakan (servants of the king) above businesspeople or other professions, and the military higher than other public servants. Second, visible aspirations for liberal and egalitarian forms of government have been exhibited by disenfranchised groups whose demands for participation in governance have increased over time. Third, the shift in power in international politics, away from the West towards other centres of power, including illiberal and authoritarian states, is reducing the pressure on Thailand to undertake liberal democratic reforms. For these three reasons, this chapter proposes a ‘trialectical’ framework for Thai civil–military relations. While Thailand remains a hybrid state, in which democratic forces continue to wrestle with traditional elites, they are not yet strong enough to force change towards liberal democratic politics.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.