Professor McCargo: Chamlong Srimuang and the New Thai Politics
( Last edit 2009-06-01 )
McCargo, Duncan. 1997. Chamlong Srimuang and the New Thai Politics. New York: St. Martin’s Press. xiv+334 pp. (This book is based on the author’s 1993 Ph.D. dissertation, “The Political Leadership of Major-General Chamlong Srimuang.”, University of London, Department of Political Studies, SOAS. 297 pp.)
On May 1992: Chapter eight deals with Chamlong’s role during the May events. The author starts with the statement that the demonstrations did not merely constitute a challenge of the state (a somewhat vague concept in this context) by a developing civil society. But the ‘business elite’ had taken the opportunity to turn against the military’s economic privileges. In addition to these two ‘groups’, NGO-activists, peasants, and slum dwellers took part in the protests (characteristically, workers are missing from this list, and one wonders whether they had no part and, if so, why not).
Why was Chamlong able to provide a mobilizing focus for these rather diverse groups to take to the streets? This more conventional question is complemented by another one which was asked especially by his adversaries: Did Chamlong act on the basis of political principles or did he merely follow his very personal political agenda? It demonstrates the complexity of Chamlong’s personality that McCargo needs eight points to weight the pros and cons of different possible motivations. In any case, according to the author, it was not adequate to put too much emphasis on the person of Chamlong, and he provides some insights into the divergent opinions which existed in the protest’s leadership. The decisive factor regarding Chamlong’s catalytic role seem to have been that he was very popular at that time. However, this would have remained ineffective if there had not been a very real public opinion—and even more than this: a public need—regarding Suchinda’s resignation from the prime ministership. And it was not Suchinda as a person who was opposed, but it was Suchinda as the formost symbol of the military’s dominance in politics.
Thai Politics Bibliography
Compiled and annotated by Michael H. Nelson
Center for the Study of Thai Politics and Democracy
King Prajadhipok Institute
While Major General Chamlong led the rally against the Suchinda's military dictators group in May 1992, Thaksin Shinawatra, had been at the other end of politics as a secretive opportunistic insider to enjoy the harvesting in the monopolized telecommunication concession provided by the military junta.