Second Thai Forum of 2017/18
- Date: Tuesday 24 October 2017
- Location: Cromer Terrace
- Cost: Free
Second Thai Forum of 2017/18
Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang and Duncan McCargo discuss Thailand’s Constitutional Changes and Buddhism.
We will be joined by Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University, whose research focuses on constitutional development in Thailand, public accountability, administrative law, as well as Buddhism and law.
In a free-flowing discussion with Professor Duncan McCargo of POLIS, a leading expert on Thai politics, Khemthong will discuss the changes in Thailand’s constitutions since 1997 concerning models of state-religion relationship, and the reasons behind such changes as well as their implication on Thailand’s attempt to restore and consolidate democracy. For more details on Khemthong and his talk, see attachment.
As usual, the talk will be followed by a reception of drinks and snacks.
Thailand’s Constitutional Changes and Buddhism
The Thai state is known for its long and deep entanglement with Buddhism. Buddhism provided guidance, constrains, as well as legitimacy for traditional Siamese kings, who returned the favor in the form of special treatment and subsidy to the Thai Buddhist order. Buddhism, together with the nation and the monarchy, became one of the trilogy of Thainess. The 1932 democratic revolution did not end this intimate relationship. Instead, modern leaders still very much rely on religious legitimacy so they have to try to balance between the idea of a liberal secular state and the traditional idea of a good Buddhist ruler. Constitution drafters guarantee religious freedom to all Thais, yet recognize the superior status of Buddhism. Thus, Buddhism significantly helps shape Thailand’s legal and political arrangement. The arrangement had worked well until 1997, when constitutional changes began to disrupt this delicate balance. Since then, the secular state idea has retreated and the conservative fundamentalism seemed to be on the rise. Interestingly, the policy shift coincided with Thailand’s political struggle, which ended in the 2014 coup d’etat. The latest coup marked the beginning of the so-called “good people” politics, in which Buddhist morals played more critical role than ever. This paper would examine the changes in Thailand’s constitutions since 1997 concerning models of state-religion relationship. It aims to explain the reasons behind such changes as well as discuss their implication on Thailand’s attempt to restore and consolidate democracy.
"Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang is a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University. His research interests are constitutional development in Thailand, public accountability, administrative law, as well as Buddhism and law. He graduated from Chulalongkorn University before earning his LL.M. at Yale Law School. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Bristol Law School."