‘Thailand’s Tragedy: Exploring the Military Junta and its National and Regional Implications’



Prof. Duncan McCargo

Professor of Political Science at University of Leeds

Senior Research Affiliate at Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University

Verapat Pariyawong

Former Special Counsel to Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand

Visiting Scholar at SOAS, University of London

Jonathan Prentice

Chief Policy Officer at Crisis Group

 thialand speakers

TIME: 1 – 2pm, Wednesday 19th November 2014

VENUE: Committee Room 2A, House of Lords, London, SW1A 0AA

To attend please RSVP to: researchassistant8@henryjacksonsociety.org 


Thailand’s political history has been dogged by coups and intermittent military rule over the last 80 years. In recent years, the increased political consciousness among the poor and rural populations as well as the growing middle class has endangered the vested interests of the traditional elites and members of the armed force, and since the new military junta seized power in May, it has been attempting to reverse this trend. Now on the verge of six months in power, the junta is looking to redraft the constitution in an effort to prevent a similar outcome to the previous three elections; it has been restricting media outlets critical of the junta’s activities; it has come under scrutiny for imposing martial law and stacking Parliament with military personnel; and, according to Amnesty International and other human rights organisations, politicians, opposition supporters, academics, students and journalists are being detained, imprisoned and tortured.

Thailand’s tradition of openness and respect for the democratic process is thus under direct threat.

However, given the rise of China and United States’ “pivot to Asia”, this will have ramifications not only for the future of the country, but for the dynamic within the region, and by extension, for the overall geopolitical landscape. The US in particular has traditionally relied on Thailand as a major democratic and security ally in Asia. With the direction taken by the junta, what is the outlook for this valued relationship?

The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to a discussion with Prof. Duncan McCargo, Professor of Political Science at University of Leeds and Senior Research Affiliate at Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University; Verapat Pariyawong, former Special Counsel to Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and Visiting Scholar at SOAS, University of London; and Jonathan Prentice, Chief Policy Officer at Crisis Group. The panellists will shed light on the coup in May, the recent anti-democratic trends and the implications these developments will have for the region and for the West. They will also share their thoughts on how an effective and stable democratic system of governance might be re-installed.



Duncan McCargo is Professor of Political Science at University of Leeds and Senior Research Affiliate at Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. He is recognised as one of the foremost experts on the politics of Thailand, and is known for his agenda-setting contributions to current debates on the subject.

His interests include elections, rallies and protests, political role of media, subnational conflicts, and the politics of justice. He spent several years in Thailand, including one in insurgency-affected Pattani (2005–2006). He spent 2012 in Bangkok conducting participant-observation research on the politics of the justice system. For 2013, he will be based at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.

In addition, Dr. McCargo has lived in Singapore, taught in Cambodia and Japan, and published on Indonesia and Vietnam. To avoid repeating himself, he changes research topics regularly and commits to doing serious fieldwork. Time magazine wrote of his work, “No armchairs for this author… McCargo is the real McCoy.” Foreign Affairs cited his Pacific Review 2005 article “Network monarchy and legitimacy crises in Thailand” as a must-read primer on the country’s politics.

Dr. McCargo’s ninth book, Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand (Cornell University Press 2008) won the Asia Society’s inaugural Bernard Schwartz Book Prize for 2009, worth $20,000. His latest book is Mapping National Anxieties: Thailand’s Southern Conflict (NIAS, 2012). He was awarded an honorary doctorate in Thai studies by Mahasarakham University in 2010 and holds a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship until October 2014.

Dr. McCargo appears regularly on BBC radio and television and has written for The Daily Telegraph, The Economist, The Guardian, and TIME Magazine. He has also given briefings to senior officials including UN staff and the president of the Thai Senate.

Verapat Pariyawong is a Thai legal advisor and political commentator. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at SOAS, University of London.

He previously served as Special Counsel to Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and Honorary Advisor to Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives of Thailand.

He holds a Master of Law degree from Harvard Law School where he was also a Fulbright Scholar and held honorary distinction for his LL.M. paper on Thai constitutional and political issues.

He has been a guest lecturer and speaker at various universities and leading institutions in Thailand; and among his audience have been the current and former Prime Ministers of Thailand, the Speaker of the Thai Parliament and the Speaker of the Thai Senate. He has co-authored a policy study report on Thai electoral system for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and published articles and chapters on constitutional and international law in academic journals and liber amicorum.

In addition to appearing regularly in the Thai press, his comments have been reported internationally by ABC (Australia), Agence France-Presse, Aljazeera, Associated Press, BBC World Service, Channel News Asia, China Central Television (CCTV), DPA (Germany), Kyodo (Japan), The New York Times, The Strait Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and Xinhua News Agency.

Jonathan Prentice is the Chief Policy Officer at Crisis Group. He works with the President and all programmes and offices on the effective development and advocacy of all Crisis Group policy positions. He serves on the organisation’s senior management team and has been with Crisis Group since August 2010.

Prior to joining Crisis Group, Jonathan Prentice worked with the United Nations for sixteen years in political analysis, peacekeeping and human rights. He served at headquarters in both New York and Geneva, as well as in Cambodia, East Timor (up to independence), Iraq and Indonesia. He has conducted a number of fact-finding missions, including in Afghanistan and Darfur/Chad, and was part of the UN’s emergency response to Haiti in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake.



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