Rural transformation and local politics in a central Thai district
This thesis is a study of socio-economic change and local electoral politics in a Central Thai district and is based on ethnographic research carried out between 1989 and 1990. Local electoral politics has received little attention in Thai studies in recent years. This thesis aims to fill this gap with detailed case studies of instances of elections for subdistrict head and provincial councillor positions. The cases reveal the practical and ideological strategies pursued by candidates and the means by which they mobilise the rural electorate and enlist the support of political patrons. The study describes candidates' use of local 'vote brokers', 'vote-buying' and political patronage. The parts played by members of a district-wide manufacturers' association, by national politicians and by religious leaders are also examined. The case studies serve to expose the contradictions between the rhetoric and practice of Thai local-level democracy.The strategies and structures of local politics are set within the context of a rapidly changing rural political economy. Two aspects of this, household economic differentiation and rural industry, are examined in detail. Economic differences between households are extreme and new relations of production are emerging. After surveying economic and social differences between households, the study focuses on a recently established brickmaking industry in 'Banglen' district. The industry is highly differentiated and relations of production are correspondingly complex. It is argued that owners of larger enterprises use patronage in their efforts to solve their problems with labour. The study describes an industry association that larger manufacturers have set up. The association promotes the interests of producers in several ways, not least by supporting members' attempts to win local office.Comparison of politicians' electoral strategies and employers' strategies with regard to labour reveals that there exists between them an underlying similarity. Both politicians and employers attempt to achieve their ends by drawing on the ideology of patronage and obligating the other in the relationship. Both use capital to construct obligations with moral connotations.