Resistance to Dictatorship and the Future of Human Rights in Thailand

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Resistance to Dictatorship and the Future of Human Rights in Thailand
Stream: Political Sciences
Presentation Type: Roundtable
Authors:
Bencharat Sae Chua, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand (organizer, roundtable-chair)
Coeli Barry, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand (discussant)
Tyrell Haberkorn, University of Wisconsin, United States (discussant)
Akanit Horatakun, McGill University, Canada (discussant)

Abstract:

On 22 May 2014, a junta calling itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) carried out the thirteenth coup in Thailand since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. For nearly five years, the NCPO presided over a military dictatorship in which human rights violations became systematic and institutionalized. Despite severe restriction of civil and political rights, freedom of expression in particular, political resistance to the dictatorship took diverse forms. Following a national election in March 2019 and the subsequent formation of a cabinet in July 2019, the NCPO officially ceased to exist. Despite these formal changes, the military retains a hold on social and political life and a cessation of human rights violations, let alone accountability for those committed under the NCPO, remains beyond reach. Simultaneously, citizen resistance to the military’s intervention in public life, which remained spare under dictatorship, has grown stronger since the election despite ongoing threats of prosecution or violence for those who dissent. This panel takes both the concerning resurgence of the military’s role in public life despite elections and the hopeful paradox of new resistance to it as a point of departure to interrogate the limits and possibilities of dissent in the polity, the relationships between the ruler and the ruled, and how both impact the protection of human rights in Thailand. Coming from academic backgrounds in politics, anthropology and history, and experience in both social movements and human rights organizations, the panelists on this roundtable will assess the past five years of dictatorship, opposition to it, and future possibilities for forging life after dictatorship.

Bencharat Sae Chua will chair the discussion and will examine resistant politics and the grounds for a new culture of rights. Akanit Horatakun will discuss how civil society navigated the limited political space to resist within the context of the history of the human rights movement. Coeli Barry will analyze the personal and emotional realms of quiet forms of resistance and how they challenge what counts as the political. Tyrell Haberkorn will reflect on efforts to forge justice and accountability as ongoing resistance to lingering dictatorship.