Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UC’s Lecture on Thai Parliamentary Politics 2009


As part of the continuing Dr. Handa Eminent Lecture Series, a presentation on “Thai Parliamentary Politics 2009” was conducted by The University of Cambodia (UC) on June 6. The lecture was presented by Dr. Paul Chambers, Senior Research Fellow of Heidelberg University in Germany.

Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, UC President and Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, introduced the lecture and said that it was important for students to learn about the politics of neighboring countries. The presentation also provided an opportunity for students to widen their field of interest beyond the scope of their chosen disciplines.

“This lecture is very important and useful for UC’s students and it will be an opportunity for them to learn about politics, development and international relations,” he said during his opening remarks.

Dr. Paul Chambers, Senior Research Fellow of Heidelberg University in Germany, said he was honored to be asked to deliver the presentation for The University of Cambodia.

Dr. Chambers said that the lecture would cover topics such as democracy, politics and Parliament in Thailand and why Thailand is currently experiencing political turmoil following the ousting of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.

“No country meets the ideal of a perfect democracy but almost all countries are a variant of polyarchy or near democracy. Thailand is an example of a tutelary democracy as the Thai parliament is just an arena for proxy politics,” he said. “In effect, Thai democracy is under the control of the palace (Kingship) and privy councils.

He said pointed out that in the Western Parliamentary system, Parliament is the source of all political power. Thaksin Shinawatra attempted to strengthen this system in Thailand as Thai politics is based on such a model but he fell foul of the monarchy and bureaucracy. The balance of power shifts between the Monarchy and the Privy Council. The military and the police generally stand on the sidelines,” he said.

He said that since the coup against Thaksin Shinawatra on 19th September 2006, there have been many changes in Thailand’s democracy and politics including the examination of the Thai constitution in 2007, growth in military power and the power of the courts and a weakened parliamentary system.

He continued that from 2008 to 2009, the pro-Thaksin Parliamentary forces tried to change the constitution. These attempts were blocked by crowds outside the Parliament building. Subsequent events saw the judiciary bring down two prime ministers and five political parties. The result was the “Silent Coup” of December 2008.

He added that Thai parliamentary politics in 2009 – 2010 will be characterized by the struggle between pro and anti Thaksin forces. Democrats under current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva use the Bhumjai Thai Party to divide and conquer the pro-Thaksin Phoeur Thai Party. The picture is further complicated with the addition of eight other political parties, according to Dr. Chambers.

Pech Bunheang, a UC student who attended the presentation, said that he was impressed with the lecture. He said he found the topic interesting and he learned much about political conditions in Thailand today.

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