Alternative Meanings of Political Reform in Contemporary Thailand

  • Duncan McCargo Asian Research Centre


This article argues that constitutionalism is a 'disease' that afflicts Thailand's body politic, reflecting intense contestation among rival elite power-holders. The recent debates concerning political reform in Thailand (which culminated in the promulgation of the 1997 constitution) illustrate this contestation vividly. The vague, positive-sounding term 'political reform' actually means many different things to different people: it is a highly contested concept which has been used to legitimate a variety of political agendas, ranging from progressive ideas, to deeply conservative and even anti-democratic sentiments. The resulting constitution is an excessively long and deeply unsatisfactory document. Nevertheless, it may contain certain details that offer opportunities for the future opening-up of greater political space.