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Family Ties that Bind: Decentralisation, Local Elites and the Provincial Administrative Organisations in Thailand

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2022

Yoshinori Nishizaki*
Affiliation:
Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore
*
*Corresponding author. Email: seayn@nus.edu.sg

Abstract

Growing rapidly before the early 2000s, literature on provincial Thai politics has dwindled in recent years. This article makes a small attempt to redress this trend by highlighting one distinctive yet understudied emerging electoral dynamics in provincial Thailand. Specifically, drawing mainly on Thai-language primary sources, this paper shows that in the majority of Thailand's provinces, the Provincial Administrative Organisation, an electoral institution that has received an unprecedented amount of state funding in the post-1997 age of decentralisation, has enabled influential political families to retain and even increase their power. As political and economic power has been decentralised from Bangkok, it has ironically been centralised in the hands of a limited number of oligarchic provincial elites. This phenomenon is not an historical aberration; rather, it should be viewed as one manifestation or product of Thailand's enduring patrimonial culture, in which public officeholders’ positions are regarded as an extension of their personal or familial property. I conclude by discussing the Thai case theoretically and comparatively.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Institute of East Asian Studies, Sogang University

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