Civil Society Development in Thailand & Myanmar
Pro-Demoracy Civil Society Movements Thailand & Myanmar
Civil society development in Thailand and Myanmar has had significant progress since the end of World War Two 1948-9 when the Kingdom of Siam changed its name to Thailand and Myanmar gained its independence from the British. During this period pro-democracy social movements have gained prominence in the face of autocratic military dictatorships. Which raises interest in the factors that have impacted and gave rise to pro-democracy social movements in Thailand and Myanmar since 1948-9. These factors include: The role of the military, the role of the monarchy, & key events. A further interesting point based on the respective nations’ overall democratic development will be a consideration of whether Thailand was able to democratize faster than Myanmar, and if so, why?
Thailand and Myanmar share several similarities that make them ideal for comparison and contrast. The two share similar geography and resources, furthermore, a similar population (Figure 1) that is predominantly Buddhist had led to a similar values and ethics appreciated by society. The civil society for democracy in both nations have formed for collective action to protect non-state public actors, affect the regime type (which in this case is keeping military out of politics and democratic elections), and influence the policies of the state (raising the minimum wage), society and the market (in the case of Mynmar less centralized control of the market and a transition to a free market system).
Figure 1 Country Overview
Head of Government
Chief of State
King Bhumibol Aduladej
Parliamentary since 2011
Head of Government
Chief of State
Today Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and has had a parliament for decades; Myanmar however has had its parliament only since 2011. This indicates that democracy in Thailand developed sooner than that of Myanmar’s. In Southeast Asia, and specifically these two nations, the role that the military plays is pivotal in politics. In functioning democracies, the military plays a supporting role, however in this region of the world they take center stage and dictate much of the political happenings of the nation. Arguably too much power is held by the military as is evident by a series of military coups since the turn of the century. Figure 2 shows past governments of Thailand & Myanmar with M representing military regimes and C for civilian.
M- Phot Pahonyothin (1933-38)
M- Pibul Songkram (1938-44)
C-Pridi Panomyong (March 24, 1946- Auguest 23, 1946)
M- Pibul Songkram (1948-57)
M- Sarit Thanarat (1959-63)
M Thanom Kitikachorn (1963-73)
1973 Student Uprising (First significant pro democracy civil society movement)
Gains independence 1938
M- Military coup led by General Newin seizes power (1966-1988)
1988 People Power Uprising (First significant pro democracy civil society movement)
The list of military regimes is relatively shorter in Myanmar because Newin’s regime was able to fully consolidate itself. The main difference in the development of the military’s role in politics was that Thailand was able to push for democratic measures and limit the military’s influence; Myanmar’s regime under Newin took hold and consolidated its position. When he seized power Newin abolished the federal system and introduced what he called “The Burmese Way to Socialism” – this meant naitonalizing the economy, banning independent newspapers and forming a single-party state. Since 1962, the country was ruled by the Burma Socialist Programme Party as a one-party state headed by General Newin.