Revolution from below : grassroots participation in Thai civil society.
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This study applies the concept of civil society in analyzing the role of grassroots participation in Thai society. It aims to clarify the emergence of Thai local civil society and how it is developed and sustained. Civil society in Thailand often emerges from protest movements and then needs to adapt to survive when protest ends. The thesis examines this process. The framework identifies the key factors in three phases; the civil group establishment, civil group development and civil group sustainability. The participatory approach was uses for observation, in depth-interview and textual analysis. The study used three local civil groups for comparison in two case studies. The cases showed that Thai local civil groups emerged in relation to their social capital in their communities. Social capital in terms of trust and reciprocity operated through social bonding and relationships. Villagers created informal structures through self-organization. Leaders played a very significant role, in particular, to connect the actors within and outside the civil groups. The study shows that social capital facilitated the operation of civil groups. The individual social capital developed into group or collective social capital based on the groups’ values and norms, which could sustain the civil groups. The adaptation of the civil groups came about through building linkages with other organizations, both at the horizontal and vertical levels. Civil groups that needed to convert to or combine with other organizations such as NGOs could not survive, so that the civil society developed during the protest eroded. The study found that the keys to effective Thai civil society are good human resources and a local orientation. Leaders were very important for the civil society to remain local in its orientation. Civil society also needs to be independent because civil society loses its horizontal ties, social capital and purpose when it is drawn into national politics, or is converted into NGOs and led by nationally-oriented NGOs or activists. Consequently, Thai civil society requires self-organization and a local focus in order to be sustained in Thai society.