The Thai Military’s Civil Affairs Projects: From Counter-Insurgency to Counter-Democracy
Puangthong Pawakapan (Associate Professor, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University; HYI Visiting Scholar 2018-19)
Chair/discussant: Michael Herzfeld (Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University)
Co-sponsored with the Thai Studies Program, Harvard University Asia Center
Despite numerous successful coups d’etat, the Thai military’s extensive involvement in various civilian affairs projects has attracted little attention from scholars. Within Thailand’s armed forces, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) was the main agency charged with carrying out a wide range of civilian affairs projects during the counter-insurgency period. Its activities included rural development, creating mass organizations and mobilization campaigns, and psychological operations. However, the demise of communism did not see the winding down of ISOC or the end of its activities. Indeed, after the coups in 2006 and 2014 that toppled the elected governments, ISOC became more active and powerful in supporting the military governments and entrenching its control over electoral politics. It has become a state within a state.