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Thai Politics: Between Democracy and Its Discontents

Daniel H. Unger and Chandra Mahakanjana
Thai Politics: Between Democracy and Its Discontents
ISBN: 978-1-62637-427-0
ISBN: 978-1-62637-514-7
2016/251 pages/LC: 2015037571
"Thai Politics will be applauded, criticized, and debated."—Kevin Hewison, Pacific Affairs

"A detailed analysis of what makes Thailand tick."—L. Barney Smith, Asian Affairs

"While this book squarely focuses on Thailand, ... the parallels and divergences drawn from [the Thai] case permit valuable comparative insights and lessons for those examining the contours of democracy and its discontents in other parts of the world."—Aim Sinpeng, Contemporary Southeast Asia

"A sophisticated and conceptually worthwhile analysis that also asks probing questions about the nature of 21st century politics.... Offer[s] a provocative re-reading of the Thai political scene."—Nicholas Farrelly, Australian Outlook, Australian Institute of International Affairs

"A must-read.... This much-needed and refreshing alternative to simple institutional examinations provides a deep exploration of Thailand and its political upheavals."—Denise M. Horn, Simmons College


The prospects for Thailand's emergence as a democracy seemed strong in the 1990s. Yet, as most recently demonstrated by military coups in 2006 and 2014, that hasn't happened. Why not? Why have factors typically considered advantageous for democratization turned into barriers? Is there a uniquely Thai reason that democratization efforts have failed?
Daniel Unger and Chandra Mahakanjana explore the intersecting and often contradictory forces that are shaping the nature of Thai politics today. Paying overdue attention to a complex of social, cultural, and institutional dynamics, they offer a nuanced portrait of the ongoing tug-of-war between authoritarian and democratic impulses.


The late Daniel H. Unger taught political science at Thammasat University. Chandra Mahakanjana teaches in the Graduate School of Public Administration at Thailand's National Institute of Development Administration.


  • Thai Politics: Institutionalizing Uncertainty.
  • Potemkin Politics.
  • Performance of the Thai State.
  • Rule of Lords and Rule of Law.
  • Politics Between the Lines.
  • Political Participation: Civil Society and Political Parties.
  • Thailand's Elusive Democracy.