Barbara Orlandini University of Florence, Italy
Re-contextualising development policies : ‘Good governance’ in post-crisis Thailand. ******************************* Consuming ‘Good Governance’ in Thailand Before the crisis, effective public institutions and governance were commonly believed to have fostered the impressive economic performance and high growth of the East Asian miracle countries. Since the crisis, however, views of East Asian governance have become less rosy. World Bank (2000a: 103)
But is it always true that what is good for the US is good for the world? The old colonial powers argued that small countries should surrender their sovereignty in return for the benefits of “civilization”. The language has changed (from “civilization” to “good governance”), but the message remains the same. Chang Noi (1999) During the third Euroseas Conference held in London 6-8 September 2001, I was impressed by how often the concept of ‘governance’ (or ‘good governance’) came up in highly diversified contexts, from political violence to globalization. My hearing must have been somewhat biased by two years of work on the concept of ‘good governance’ in Thailand, nevertheless I have the feeling this reflects the primary role it is playing in shaping today’s politics and developmental pattern of the countries of South East Asia. Actually not many words in its favor were spent,
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา but the overall impression was that it is nevertheless ‘good’ per se and that it is the way that is usually addressed to be wrong, either because it leaves out political aspects (G. Crawford), it promotes free-market and ‘conservative’ reforms (Ji Giles), or it misses important features of future democracy (N. Schulte Nordholt). Of course the most benevolent view came from the representative of a bilateral cooperation agency that avoiding any description of it, used the buzzword ‘good governance’ to promote their work. What is this ‘good governance’ they all talk about? What forms of knowledge and practices does it legitimizes? And, most importantly for the present research, what does it mean in today’s Thailand? This article is based on a wider PhD research project that comprises a reflection on documents, writings and direct experience in and around ‘good governance’ and its introduction in Thailand after the 1997 crisis. The research was deliberately limited to the analysis of the public sector, disregarding therefore the so-called ‘good corporate governance’, concerning the private business environment. This decision was taken in order to confine the field of analysis that, otherwise, would have been too broad, and considering the overall special emphasis placed in Thailand on reform of public administration and politics at large. The research assumed the case of ‘good governance’ and the Thai experience to explore the possibility of looking at development policies as commodities. Policies, like goods, are produced and packaged within the international economic and intellectual power centers (development banks, the International Monetary Fund, bilateral development agencies, think-tanks linked to them), and then are ‘marketed’ in countries considered less developed. This approach follows a new current in anthropology and development studies, which critically analyses the power relations that characterize the development process, in which resistance and multiple modernities are highlighted, and where language and practice inform each other (e.g. Arce and Long 2000; Cooper & Packard 1997; Crush 1995a; Grillo & Stirrat 1997; Gupta & Ferguson 1997; Hobart 1993). The research thus implies at least two levels of analysis, one concentrating on the ‘production site’ or the ‘encoding’ phase (Hall 1992) of policy-making, the other on the re-contextualisation process it undergoes once delivered in a country, following a theory of consumption that focuses on the object-consumer relation.
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา The first level of analysis implied the reading of policies as ‘cultural texts’, performing a critical deconstruction of them. The way language is employed in policymaking reveals a kind of power that is exercised through ‘styles of expression’, or a Foucauldian ‘gaze’ (Apthorpe 1996, 1997; Hobart 1995; Foucault 1981, 1982, 1991), a power that is both negative and positive, excluding and ‘affirming’ legitimate discursive spaces and forms of knowledge. Discourse and practice are closely linked and they shape each other. Under the neutral language of ‘good governance’ there is the powerful assumption that there is a transcendental entity able to discern what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ governance. The former is the one that will lead to a no better-defined ‘development’ and the link between the two will be scientifically demonstrated. ‘Good for whom?’ seems a very legitimate question here. At the ‘consumption’ stage we will face a dispersion of meanings developed through discursive formations and practices; but rather than postulating the existence of one true meaning that has been ascribed to the ‘good governance’ policy agenda, which different actors, consciously or unconsciously, reinterpret or dissociate themselves from, policies are conceived as commodities, standardized ‘objects’ that are ‘used’ in various ways. This allows on the one hand, through an anthropology of consumption, to overcome the passive ‘consumer’ view, that wants the receiving end to be the dumb subject of external powers, endowing the act of consumption with creativeness. On the other policy-as-commodity does not undermine the power structure that underpins the production/consumption process, but reveals the marketing strategy through which policies are pre-packed and delivered to developing countries. The analysis of the internal discourse on ‘good governance’ suggests that there is an ongoing attempt to re-appropriate this policy and place it in one’s own socio-cultural system and in a historical perspective. There is a persistent effort to contextualise the concept of ‘good governance’ in the Thai political-religious background and to frame it in the natural political development process of the country. It is important to underline, in this perspective, the struggle to find an adequate Thai translation of this expression. The root thamma (used, as we will see, in at least two Thai versions of ‘good governance’) means ‘righteous’, ‘fair’, and
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา as a noun indicates the teachings of Buddha. This indicates the will to connote positively ‘good governance’ within a Thai moral framework. The research is not a policy analysis in the sense of testing if this reaches its goals or not, if the implementation corresponds to the conceptualization. The aim is not to state what is ‘better’, closer to ‘reality’ or the real needs of people, hence if we should talk about ‘democracy’ rather than ‘governance’, as Schmitz suggested (1995), or if the latter is more ‘politically correct’ and neutral, but foresighted. The point is to try and understand why an emphasis on ‘governance’ emerged, which are the forces behind it and how this impacts, as a discursive formation, the (Foucauldian) ‘régime of truth’ from which is borne out. At the local level the consumption of the policy implies a re-production process embedding it in the existing ‘general politics’ of truth, that is what is accepted as true in a society (Foucault 1980: 131). In the present article I will focus on the main findings of my research reporting on the critical analysis of the leading ‘donor agency’s’ policy documents and, more thoroughly, on the Thai re-contextualization process. In order to provide an introduction to the theoretical underpinnings of my research, I will open with a reflection on the role of anthropology in the study of development policy-making, conceptualizing policy as a discourse embedded in unequal power relations.
An Anthropology of Development Policy-making Anthropology’s contribution to an understanding of the process of policymaking has been recently underlined by Shore & Wright’s edited work on Anthropology of Policy (1997a), where it is stated that
phenomena. They can be read by anthropologists in a number of ways: as cultural texts, as classificatory devices with various meanings, as narratives that serve to justify or condemn the present, or as rhetorical devices and discursive formations that function to empower some people and silence others (Shore & Wright 1997b: 7).
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา An anthropological study of policy is claimed to provide ‘a key to analyzing the architecture of modern power relations’ (ibid.: 12). In the struggle to overcome the dualism between micro/macro, local/global, ‘anthropologists are in the unique position to understand the workings of multiple, intersecting and conflicting power structures which are local but tied to non-local systems’ (Abu-Lughod in Shore & Wright 1997b: 13). They can contribute by defining a ‘method for analyzing connections between levels and forms of social process and action, and exploring how those processes work in different sites’ (ibid.: 14). In analyzing policy in the production-consumption framework, as in the present case, it is important to operate these ‘multi-site ethnographies’, that grasp ‘the interactions between different sites or levels in policy processes’ (ibid.), these allow studying how different ideas about a policy/commodity are conceived along the process. An anthropology of policy also permits a re-conceptualization of the ‘field’ in anthropology as ‘a social and political space articulated through relations of power and systems of governance’ (Shore & Wright 1997b: 14) away from the bounded definition of the local (and possibly exotic) community. Also the kind of materials analyzed are new, even though the use of written documents, such as historical ones, was already common in anthropology. Policy documents are analyzed as ‘cultural texts’ (ibid.: 15), and here through language and discourse analysis anthropology can provide useful insights. As Apthorpe (1997) pointed out: ‘[a]nthropology, with its concern with genres, performances and agencies, can contribute crucially to scrutiny of policy and analysis of policy through its language’ (1997: 43). The way language is employed in policymaking reveals a kind of power that is exercised through ‘styles of expression’, or a Foucauldian ‘gaze’, where ‘a focus is selected and pursued’ (Apthorpe 1997: 44). Through the establishment of these ‘styles of expression’, while policymaking might fail as practice, it will ‘succeed as composition and code’ (ibid.: 45). In a wider, Foucauldian sense, policy documents are part and parcel of the formation of discourses, whose analysis involves both a critical and genealogical portion, with the former applying to the systems that regulate discourses, and the latter to the series where discourse is formed. This ‘genealogical portion’ tries to grasp discourse ‘in its power of affirmation’, by which it is meant,
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา not so much a power which would be opposed to that of denying, but rather the power to constitute domains of objects, in respect of which one can affirm or deny true or false propositions…discourse analysis understood like this does not reveal the universality of a meaning, but brings to light the action of imposed scarcity’ (Foucault 1981: 73).
In this framework, policies, setting the boundary of overlapping discourses, leave out alternatives, giving ‘institutional authority’ to specific discourses. Who has the ‘power to define’ becomes central (Shore & Wright 1997b: 18). Discourse analysis has known a growing influence in development studies, in order to understand how development is theorized and practiced. According to Apthorpe, a focus on policies discourse overcomes the ‘single-disciplinary approach’ determined by ‘the hegemony of development economics’ in this field (development) that should be ‘interdisciplinary’ (1996: 21). This move arose from an overall discontent with policy efficacy in terms of poverty alleviation, and with policy analysis as a means to understand its failings. As Crush pointed out, problematizing the discourse of development shares similar concerns with other disciplines; these are related with a ‘textual turn’ in social sciences and humanities, with the ‘post-modern, post-colonial and feminist thought’ (which stressed the importance of power relations in the construction of knowledge), and with the struggle to emphasize the value of alternative ways of knowing, while loosening the power of Western knowledge (1995b: 3-4). Within anthropology, a growing attention towards an anthropology of development, has meant considering ‘its institutions, political processes and ideologies as valid sites of ethnographic enquiry in themselves’ (Gardner & Lewis 1996: 68), and ‘analyzing it as a form or discourse’ (ibid.: 70)i. The work being done in problematizing the notion of development, anyhow, is not meant to be instrumental for policy-makers, rather it criticizes the conceptual framework in which they work, suggesting a ‘radical reappraisal of the ways in which global poverty and inequality are conceptualized and tackled’ (ibid.). In this perspective, an analysis of development also ‘raises important questions about the nature of developmental knowledge and its interface with other representations of reality’, where anthropology can intervene in showing that there are many other ways of
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา knowing and can help understand the encounter between different knowledges (ibid.: 73)ii. A discourse analysis of development highlights that it is ‘as an organizing discourse [that] it is often more powerful’ (ibid.: 75), and that discourses are dominated by those in power, resulting in perpetuating and reinforcing power relations between different areas of the world (ibid.: 155). In a Marxist sense, there is an ideological process being brought to critical awareness by discourse analysis, challenging and deconstructing given realties (see Porter 1995). In any case, there hardly is one single discourse, but this is ‘far more diverse and contested than many accounts suggest’ (Gardner
& Lewis 1996: 76). There are most likely
discourses of development also within the same category of actors involved in the process, as well as between them (Grillo 1997: 21-22). Discourse is an organized knowledge enacted through institutional practices, in which language plays a major role. ‘Each discourse allows certain things to be said, thought and done and impedes or prevents other things from being said, thought and done’ (Hunt & Wickham 1994: 8). To talk of ‘good governance’ implies a positive role ascribed to ‘civil society’, a given assumption that government agencies are monolithic and possibly corrupted, that public participation will enhance ‘true’ democracy; there are ‘values’ attached to each of its components and are those that are differently appropriated and ‘consumed’ by the different agents within the ‘recipient’ countries (to adopt a developmental jargon).
Selling Good Governance by the pound Good governance is better defined as a policy agendaiii, rather than a policy per se, and tends to cover a wide range of norms of ‘behavior’ that include both public and private spheres. In the latter case is often referred to as ‘corporate governance’ and regards the business environment.
Its appearance in the
development arena is first identified in the 1989 World Bank report on Africa, in which development problems are argued to be underpinned by a ‘crisis of governance’ (see Leftwich 1993, 1994; Stirrat 1992), which is soon followed by increasing concern for ‘governance’ by other international organization and single (mainly donor) governments. The attention is here focused on the World Bank and
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา its development partners, where the use of good governance seems to emerge as a conditionality after the basic failure of Structural Adjustment Policies in the 1980s, and it has been defined ‘World Bank/IMF consortium’s last refuge’, representing a good way to ‘blame-the-victim’ (George & Sabelli in Moore 1996: 138). Good governance and democracy (the two are often, but not always, coupled), are now considered as ‘not simply desirable but essential conditions for development in all societies’ (Leftwich 1993: 605). A series of historical factors influenced the emergence of this emphasis on governanceiv: the failure of structural adjustment lending, as already mentioned, the collapse of official communist regimes, and the emergence of pro-democracy movements (Leftwich 1993, 1994; Archer 1994)v. In this historical international political context ‘good governance’ is adopted as the new development paradigm. Apparently it represents a break with neo-liberalism and is set in a postWashington consensusvi framework, where emphasis is placed on institutions transformation, participation, and economic and political aspects converge in a wide ranging set of policy ideas (see Stiglitz 1998; Naim 1999). Before moving to the ‘field’ and hence to the ‘consumption’ act, the research focused on the production and marketing of the policy agenda of ‘good governance’. This was carried out through an analysis of international agencies’ documents that promoted the introduction of this policy in South East Asia (World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank, and UNDP). The World Bank and the IMF, in particular, have been playing in tandem a significant role in promoting ‘good governance’ worldwide, stating clearing that they should collaborate in their activities in addressing governance issues and make use ‘of complementary areas of expertise’ (IMF 1997), underlining the joint effort to push the policy agenda as part of a common strategy of intervention. The documents analyzed represent the ‘encoded’ version of governance by the main international institutions. Two aspects of the language used to set up the discourse around governance emerged: the tendency to persuade and please rather than inform, embodying, it is argued, the will to promote, to render attractive and hence ‘marketable’, the product ‘good governance’ (following Apthorpe 1996, 1997); and the neutrality of the language, determining universality, ‘packaging’ the policy agenda in a neatly designed set of prescriptions, defining problems as technical
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา rather than political. The characterization of ‘good governance’ is intrinsically positive, it is often depicted as something ‘needed’ or ‘lacking’, and potentially measurable. Its universality is promoted and is essentially built on binary oppositions
corrupt/transparent, allowing a ‘technical’ reading of the political reality of a country. The principles that underpin the ‘governance’ of a state are labelled as ‘weak’, ‘inefficient’ or unfit to international standards, justifying and promoting an external intervention to ‘strengthen’ and ‘improve’. The World Bank in a recent work on the aftermath of the ‘East Asian Crisis’ features a chapter on Responding to the Governance Challenge (World Bank 2000a: 95-111), where is presented data on ‘aggregate indicators on governance’ (ibid.: 101). Although recognizing that ‘it is difficult to measure governance precisely’, conclusions are drawn that ‘a country’s institutional quality is highly correlated with its level of development’ (ibid.: 101). Featuring a set of diagrams, one for each indicator, these should visualize the performance of East Asian countries vis-à-vis their level of development (measured as GDP per capita, hence confirming a ‘narrow view’ of the development process), demonstrating the high correlation between governance indicators and ‘development’. The indicators provided are nevertheless extremely vague in their definition, being: voice and accountability, political instability and violence, government effectiveness, regulatory burden, rule of law, absence of corruptionvii. As noticed by Apthorpe, it seems that ‘[w]hile policy language presents policy as being data-driven…this masks the extent to which it is data-driving…choosing the data it prefers’ (1997: 55). Once justified the ‘need’ to ‘improve governance’, the document spells out the measures to be taken, that involve ‘repositioning’, ‘managing’, ‘enhancing’, ‘fighting’ different aspects of public institutions (government, financial and human resources, accountability, and corruption respectively), in a word promoting good governance (World Bank 2000a: 103-110). Even if it is recognized that the ‘product’ has to be delivered in different sizes (‘any attempt at a one-size-fits-all policy agenda is ill-advised’, ibid.: 110), there is again the tendency to universalize it: ‘[s]tandards for good governance are increasingly international’ (ibid.).
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา Moving to the documents specifically designed for Thailand, I analyzed the World Bank’s regular publication on Thailand (Thailand Economic Monitor), where it is underlined, in the chapter on ‘governance’ (meaningfully titled ‘Strengthening Governance’) that the crisis revealed ‘both strengths and weaknesses in governance’ (2000b: 54). Analyzing its language, we will encounter a ‘weak’ fiscal transparency (ibid.: 55), inefficient budget processes, ‘weak accountability’ of government agencies (ibid.: 62).
Suggested reforms pursue to ‘strengthen
evaluation of sector policies’ (ibid.: 56), improve fiscal transparency, and ‘strengthen the institutions responsible for ensuring public accountability and the Government’s commitment to fight corruption’ (ibid.: 62) .viii Governance is here defined as an economic technicality, a ‘challenge posed by the crisis and the new Constitution’, which imply: 1. Ensuring ‘fiscal sustainability by sound public debt management, asset disposal/privatization, and mobilizing adequate resources through improved revenue administration’ 2. Strengthening ‘Thailand’s capacity for prioritizing and targeting public expenditures’ 3. Improving the efficiency of public management through ‘a more performance-based and transparent management of public expenditures, revenues and liabilities, as well as human resources’ 4. ‘Careful steps toward decentralization of fiscal responsibility, and strengthening accountability and transparency’ (ibid.: 54-55). The publication proceeds then to describe in detail the Public Sector Management Reform Plan that was approved by the Cabinet in May 1999 and is supported by a Public Sector Reform Loan (PSRL) granted by the World Bank (even though this is not mentioned). The Asian Development Bank defines ‘good governance’ as based on ‘four pillars’, namely accountability, participation, predictability (rule-based system), and transparency. While it recognizes that ‘their application must be countryspecific and solidly grounded in the economic, social, and administrative capacity realities of the country’ (ADB 1999a: 16), it also promotes the universality of the
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา concept, since ‘the instrumental nature of governance implies that the four governance “pillars” are universally applicable regardless of the economic orientation, strategic priorities, or policy choices of the government in question’, and is therefore adopted by ‘[d]evelopment organizations and governments the world over’ (ibid.: 16-17). The quality of the ‘brand’ is assured by the list of governance-oriented interventions, in the countries affected by the crisis, carried out by the Bankix. Good governance is simply defined as ‘good government’, with governance meaning ‘the way those with power use that power’ (ibid.: 16). Of course ‘empirical evidence’ that ‘the quality of governance has a significant impact on investment and growth’ is provided (1999a: 16), and it is represented by a box in which are briefly reported the results of ‘a study examining the locational determinants of Japanese foreign direct investment’, based on the ‘responses of businessmen to structured surveys’ (ibid.). The language used in ADB Annual Report 1998 section on governance is overtly designed to persuade that ‘their’ governance ‘model’ is effective:
partnerships with other multilateral finance institutions…have become even closer, because an enhanced ADB role in governance is intended
to lead to greater development impact of all external
assistance to this vast and extraordinarily varied region (ibid.: 20). One may anticipate that, by the end of 1999, the Bank will be well on its way to assuming a lead role for governance and public management in the Asian and Pacific region (ibid.: 31). Good governance is here objectified in ‘elements’, ‘policies that gave tangible content’ to the principles of the governance framework, embodied in ‘Board papers’ (ibid.: 20). The emphasis placed on ‘governance’ as the way out of crisis for East and Southeast Asia in their 1998 Annual Report, remarkably strikes against the Board Paper on governance developed a few years before, where the ‘East Asian experience’ is declared to suggest ‘high-quality governance’ (ADB 1999c: 18). The
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา Bank went so far as to implement a regional Technical Assistance project to draw lessons from the East Asian experience on governance useful for other ‘developing member countries’ (ibid.). But this is part of that abrupt shift from the ‘miracle’ to the ‘crony’ Asia that characterized all the literature and mode of intervention in the region (see Wade 1998). The ADB’s commitment to the improvement of Thai governance since the wake of the crisis is proved by the publication in 1999 of a research on Governance
in Thailand, whose stated aim is to serve as the basis for a more detailed and operationally oriented plan that will identify specific areas where the ADB and borrowing country can work in partnership to implement their governance agenda (Geert van der Lindenx in ADB 1999b: ii). Here, as in the World Bank’s programs, the emphasis is placed on the ‘governance challenge’ posed by the new 1997 Constitution. A number of ‘strengths’ and ‘obstacles’ are indicated in the Thai context and the role for international donors is sketched out: World Bank, IMF, UNDP, and bilateral donors supporting individual projects (Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia). The report identifies ‘six themes and priorities where the ADB could be of particular assistance’, these are: 1. Support for decentralization and enhanced citizen participation in decision-making 2. Strengthened accountability and integrity within the public sector 3. Enhanced service delivery by rationalizing function and reengineering business processes both within and between departments 4. Shrinking the sphere of state intervention in the economy and improving the performance of SOEs 5. Improved coordination in policy formulation and implementation 6. Support for legal and judicial reform (ibid.: 44-45).
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา Each area is then discussed and a quite detailed overview of Thai ‘modern State’ and ‘selected governance topics’ is provided by the report. A new work followed this first survey focusing on ADB strategy for
supporting Good Governance in Thailand, but it was still in a draft form at the time of my fieldwork in Bangkok. In the draft a two-pronged strategy is suggested that ‘involves strengthening both the “supply” of and “demand for” accountability’, supporting civil society’s capacity to monitor the reform process and its implementation, and bureaucratic commitment to transparency and fight against corruption (ADB 2000). In Michel Camdessus’ speech (former IMF Managing Director) on the IMF and good governance at the wake of the crisis (1998), we find a clear attempt to advertise the concept: ‘promoting good governance (...) is an essential element of an environment in which countries can achieve lasting prosperity (...)[it] is essential for countries at all stages of development’ (ibid.). Its counterpart is instead the stated cause of the problems faced by the recipient countries: ‘many of the problems that lie at the heart of Asia’s difficulties are bound up with poor governance’ (ibid.). The IMF is possibly the most parsimonious agency in terms of accessible documentation, they do not seem to be keen on advertising their own initiatives among a larger publicxi and the main available documents regarding their programs in Thailand are represented by the so-called letters of intent. These are letters generally signed by the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Bank of Thailand that attach to the request of a ‘Stand-By Arrangement’ (basically a loan) a Memorandum on Economic Policies that the state intends to implement over a given period of time. The first of such letters was issued on August 14th 1997, roughly a month after the plunge of the currency exchange rate. In terms of power relations the use of such a format of agreement is quite striking. It is not a terms of reference signed by both parties, a mutual (at least formally) undertaking of corresponding obligations, but it is the borrowing side that requests a loan and promise in exchange to fulfil its duties. This implies a manifest form of subjection to the external agency and an easy way to off-load the responsibilities of the program onto the debtor government.
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา The letter is addressed to the IMF’s managing director (Michel Camdessus at that time) and it opens with the following statement
The attached Memorandum on Economic Policies outlines the program that the Kingdom of Thailand intends to implement over the next three years to address the fundamental causes of current financial difficulties and to place the economy’s growth on a secure and durable footing (Thanong & Chaiyawat 1997xii). Needless to say, it is the IMF ‘technical assistance’ that provides the program of economic policy reform with the general assumption that they always know better what is good for the developing member countries (even because if it wasn’t the IMF’s program, why should they pledge allegiance to their own reforms in front of an external agency?). The present ‘memorandum’ touches also upon issues of privatization, civil service reform, public sector finance restructuring, and corporate governance. Other letters followed this first one, adjusting policies and in some regards changing them significantly, but the overall emphasis on structural reform toward improved governance was not altered.xiii The United Nations agency for Development Programme (UNDP) also published its own policy document in 1997 on Governance for sustainable human
development. The UN focus on this policy agenda is more ‘political’, compared with the Fund and development banks that focus on its economic aspects. The booklet opens with the following diagram
Figure 1 UNDP governance diagram
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา The figure introduces three problematic concepts: state, civil society and private sector. They are represented as interrelated but, nevertheless, separate entities. Their definition is later briefly discussed (ibid.: 3) without questioning the distinction between civil society and the state. The role of each in sustaining human development (defined as ‘expanding the choices for all people in society’, ibid.: 1) is thus framed:
The state creates a conducive political and legal environment. The private sector generates jobs and income. And civil society facilitates political and social interaction – mobilizing groups to participate in economic, social and political activities (UNDP 1997: frontispiece) The use of the ‘power’ metaphor is already introduced here, with each of these sectors having ‘weaknesses and strengths’, and thus the possible interventionist role of the agency is suggested: ‘a major objective of our support for good governance is to promote constructive interaction among all three’ (ibid.). We find again the attempt both to universalize the concept, to underline its unquestionable relation with development (be it human, economic, sustainable etc.) and to stress the role of the specific international organization in promoting it:
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been at the forefront of the growing international consensus that good governance and sustainable human development are indivisible (ibid.: 1).xiv UNDP identifies three ‘legs’ of governance: economic, political and administrative with good governance ‘encompassing all three’ (ibid.: 3). Good governance’s characteristics, here defined in ‘societal terms’, are: participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity, effectiveness and efficiency, accountability, and strategic vision, all are ‘interrelated’ and ‘mutually reinforcing’ (ibid.: 4-5).
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา The language used to promote their own governance programming strikingly resembles a commercial brochure, stating their ‘comparative advantage’ that set them ‘apart from other external partners concerned with governance issues’, their ‘strengths’ being: impartiality, customer orientation, long time frame, experience, trust, universality (ibid.: 11). Governance for UNDP is something that needs to be ‘strengthened’ and five ‘priority areas’ are identified (‘that will best achieve our goals’, ibid.: 13, my emphasis): governing institutions, public and private sector management, decentralization and support to local governance, civil society organizations and governance in special circumstances (ibid.). Each of them is scrutinized underlining UNDP’s capacity and experience to intervene and fulfil the country’s needs. The underlying assumption is, like in the other international agencies’ documents, the ‘weakness’ of local political institutions and civil society organizations, an inefficient and unaccountable civil service. UNDP
interventions in support of emerging issues in governance that aimed at building an understanding of the concept of good governance within the government, the private sector, and the civil society. Five main areas were identified: 1. Establish a body of knowledge on good governance issues 2. Awareness-creating initiatives 3. Networking, alliance-building and information-sharing among pubic, private and civil society agencies 4. Demonstrations of pilot initiatives 5. Preparing and identifying financing for capacity-building projects for governmental agencies The project’s Thai partner was Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) and involved also directly the Office of the Civil Service Commission (OCSC) with some of the activities directed to survey the compliance to the PM’s regulation on good governance.xv
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา What can be discerned in this review of development agencies’ documents on governance interventions is the familiar tendency to represent their ‘developing’ subjects as fragile, disorganized, closed entities, defined more by their absences, their deficiencies than any past achievements and historical heritage.xvi Framed in a series of technical problems (governance itself is often referred to as a problems’ attribute that needs to be challenged), countries’ governments, public institutions and civil society organizations are solicited to undertake reforms in the name of
good governance. The stated goal of this new interventionist approach is a no better-defined ‘development’, focusing on different aspects of it depending on the agenda of each institution involved. The definitions of what comprises this new policy vary greatly but they all contribute to the delineation of a discourse characterized
accountability, transparency) and a jargon that will greatly influence local political discourse. The concept is described, in the struggle to objectify it, as something potentially measurable, its technical aspects are emphasized, depoliticizing the policy itself. Generally policies hinder their political nature, as they are embellished and neutralized in their ‘objective, neutral, legal-rational idioms’ (Shore & Wright 1997b: 8). Especially development Banks tend to represent the issues related with ‘governance’ purified of their political elements, offering solutions that are specifically technical.xvii Issues such as privatization, that is often included in the overarching public sector reform, is framed as an enhancement of the efficiency of the public sector, hence a strictly economic matter, disregarding the political choices that underpin the establishment of SOEs and/or the state provision of public services. To define accountability as the degree to which the activities of government institutions, and the civil servants within them, are responsive to public needs, efficient in the use of public funds, and accountable to the public for their actions (World Bank 2000b: 62), does not question who decides which are the ‘public needs’, whose public needs we are talking about. Needs of different strata of the population might actually be at odds (e.g. loggers’ and environmentalists’) and it takes a political decision to assess them. The definition of this ‘public’ to which government
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา institutions should be held accountable is just as crucial. Similarly to define a ‘proper role’ that a government should cover (as did by the ADB in its governance board paper, 1999c: 4-6), confining government’s activities to a few functions, while it is presented as a technical decision (as if there is one and only ‘proper role’), it implies taking a political stance, in this case a neo-liberal one. In this process of depoliticization it becomes essential to be able to determine and measure reality, to build a tangible representation on which to operate. This objectification of the governance reality of a country allows associating its level with that of development, justifying the intervention in the structure of the debtor state, placing the two elements in causal relation. The process of policy-making traces the boundaries of the discourse within which the policy itself is studied, implemented and assessed. Alternative realities are silenced and institutional authority is given only to specific discourses (Shore & Wright 1997b: 18). According to Shore and Wright, discourses are configurations of ideas which provide the elements used to build ideologies and a discourse will become ‘dominant’ when it will be able to set up the terms of reference and to marginalise alternatives. In the instance of policies this can happen determining a political agenda and hence giving institutional authority to one or more overlapping discourses (ibid.). Applying these theoretical considerations to the case of ‘good governance’ in Thailand, we see that the existing institutional setting is framed in a position of weakness; hence it needs to be reorganized, improved, strengthened. Certain elements, such as corruption, must be ‘fought’, cutting out any other alternative interpretation of this phenomenon: this is just a murky virus, whose antidote is ‘transparency’. To emphasize, for example, the need to strengthen control and monitoring mechanisms as part of the solution of the ‘problem’ of corruption, undermines an analysis of the political-cultural causes of the phenomenon and suggests a system of cross surveillance by the state and the civil society. To define corruption as evil, a weakness that can be overcome with a more accountable and transparent system, to translate this idea in public sector reform programs and projects supporting civil society organizations, means to legitimize the discourse on corruption framed in these terms, delegitimizing in turn other possible perspectives.xviii
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา Reality encountered ‘on the ground’ of course is not so neatly planned and structured as the documents might suggest and these should be viewed as the result of a compromise between the parties involved, reflecting power relations struggles, negotiation of meanings and hidden agendas. Also among international institutions that are often viewed as unanimous in their ideological settings, disagreement and resentment surface as registered during my fieldwork in Bangkok.xix A common feeling perceived during my interviews with representative of multilateral and bilateral development agencies was the struggle to remain ‘behind the scene’. This was more overt in the case of UNDP that deliberately chose not to be on the front of the sponsored program, leaving it up to the local counterpart (also the fact that the assistant resident representative was a Thai national have its importance). Less so in the World Bank where a key role in supervising the activities is played by the Washington-based public sector specialist for the region, and where a workshop on the ‘Thailand Public sector Reform’ was for the first time held in Thai language with translation provided, while the ownership of the program by the OCSC was repeatedly underlined. A second source of ‘stress’ is determined by the attempt to be ‘politically correct’ while intervening in the political structure of the country. In particular this was felt since at the time of my staying in Bangkok general elections were held, which brought to power a new government led by the opposition. This carried out a campaign against the IMF-led reforms introduced by the previous governments riding the popular wave of resentment towards foreign intervention.xx The comment on the election of the new PM by the local representative of the IMF was ‘I thought I could just take a few months off!’, believing that nobody from the new government would come up to him for consultations, but time proved him wrong. Similarly the World Bank experienced a growing concern for their programs with the public sector, underlining the necessity to support more civil society organizations and the media in case the public sector reform should stall.
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา Delivering ‘good governance’ in Thailand was inevitably favored by the advent of the crisis and the process of political reform that was already taking place in the country. Nevertheless the introduction of this policy agenda was far from uniform and passively accepted, rather it underwent a process of ‘re-contextualisation’ that, as it will be argued in the next section, characterizes any act of consumption. This is not represented just by open resistance, but, more interestingly, by using the product in different ways, endowing it with new and diversified social values.
Thammarat, Thammaphiban, Borihanchatkan thidi, Pracharat: do they all mean ‘good governance’?
Language (and language through policy-making) has an enormous power. It is the power to define reality, to shape it for us and to delineate the boundaries of discourse within which utterances acquire meaning and the true or false status. Going back to Bourdieu who suggested that utterances are products and those producing them have to consider the structure of the ‘market’ in which they are placed (Thompson 1991: 18-20), we can see that to coin a new word to render an externally derived concept intelligible implies the embedding of it in previously constructed discourses, which will determine, to use again the economic metaphor employed by Bourdieu, their ‘value’ in the market. In the case of policies, as Shore & Wright taught us, who has the power to define becomes central, which is the dominant political culture that has the power to mould policy-making and thus to set the boundaries of overlapping discourses. Language tends to be metaphoric, actually according to Hesse (1984) all language is metaphoric if we understand that the literal/metaphoric distinction is a pragmatic one rather than semantic. Also Ricoeur ventures into the hypothesis of an all-pervasive character of metaphor and recognizes its ontological foundation, establishing ‘another world that corresponds to other possibilities of existence’ (1978: 229). In the case of neologisms there is a metaphoric tension that underpins them, which is more evident in the case of words coined through the combination of existing terms, as in the case of some Thai rendering of ‘good governance’. In this context neologisms are functional to specific political agendas, and they must
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา convey meanings that are consistent with existing regimes of truth. The coinage of a new word responds to those rules that separate true from false and is thus an effect of power, linked to forms of social, economic and cultural hegemony (see Foucault 1980: 133). Thai language is actually pervaded by neologisms, this is by and large the result of a growing influence and interconnectedness with the western world and the changing nature of its society, but they also reflect specific political choices, opening and defining new discursive spaces. The importance of coining new words in Thai rather than simply assuming their transliteration from Western languages was soon recognized by the Thai ruling class at the beginning of the 20th century, as underlined by Kasian Tejapira, who identifies Prince Narathipphongpraphan (Prince Wan) as the ‘most prolific highest authority of Thai official neologism’. He is quoted declaring
It is the Thai language that will guarantee the security of the Thai nation. This is because if we favor the use of Thai transliterations of Western words about ideas, we may walk too fast. That is we may imitate other people’s ideas directly instead of premodifying them to accord with our ideas. But if we use Thai words and hence must coin new ones, we will have to walk deliberately (in Kasian 1996b: 7). In another Thai political scientist’s words The national Thai language proved to be a sign and symbol of social and political distinction. It restored and assured the Thai ruling group’s sense of integrity, power and authority, and even the formation of their class consciousness’ (Thanet 1998: 179-180). Reflecting on the construction of the idea of freedom in Siam, Thanet observed that ‘in order to avert colonization by Western powers, Siamese élites consciously constructed new systems of knowledge using Western models, but still based on their own past and tradition’ (ibid.: 182) a trend that in some ways still seems to be en vogue nowadays.xxi
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา The process did not only concern the coinage of new words but also the redefinition of existing ones, such as in the case of thai, originally meaning humankind, so that many ethnic groups living in mainly South East Asia called themselves Thai-dam, Thai-Deng, Thai-Yai etc. (black Thai, red Thai, big Thai, ibid.: 180). It was in the Sukhothai period (12th century) that it was started to be employed to indicate those subjects that were not slaves and it was later promoted to refer to Thai ethnicity.xxii At the end of the 19th century thai became synonymous with ‘free’ in the western sense, underlining the independence and sovereignty that Siam was able to preserve throughout its history (ibid.). Cases of transliteration, as
siwilai (civilized), were not immune from this process of co-option by the ruling élite who, according to Thonchai Winichakul, attempted ‘to attain and confirm the relative superiority of Siam’ through the concept of civilization (2000: 529). The quest for siwilai wasn’t a simple reaction to the colonial threat, but rather a conceptualization for ‘comparative geographical categories that implied the varying degrees of advancement’ (ibid.: 545). A more recent idea that entered Thai vocabulary and pervaded the discussion forums basically until the arrival of the ‘new entry’ good governance, is ‘globalization’.xxiii The concept gained popularity in what became to be known as the ‘communitarians’ (or ‘localists’) vs. ‘globalisers’ debate that dominated Thai intellectual environment in the last decade involving all of the above mentioned categories of organizations and institutes, together with social thinkers and academics.
The debate is embedded in the discussions over the economic
development the country had experienced in the so called boom-years and its impact on Thai political and social fabric, including issues of equity, political reform, economic policy. The two sides are formed by an ensemble of social actors: those advocating globalization included mainly businessmen and technocrats, while those opposing it featured former Marxist radicals, advocates of ‘community culture’, conservative nationalists and Buddhist monks worried about a possible deterioration of Thai cultural and spiritual values (Hamilton-Hart 1999: 293).xxiv In Thai the concept of ‘globalization’ was at first (around 1992, see Kasian 1996a) translated as lokanuwat by Chai-anan Samudavanija, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University (then a convinced ‘globaliser’). Its meaning is close to ‘following the world’ and soon gained wide popularity, becoming, as it will happen
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา with good governance, a buzzword appearing in the titles of seminars, newspapers articles and satirical cartoons. The word itself was a source of debate and, according to Reynolds, its resonance with similar-sounding coinages has been exploited by Thai writers to underline its negative connotation (1998: 126).xxv The Royal Institute of Thailand (an independent public agency with the authority to coin new words) stepped in the linguistic discussion and in October 1994 imposed the word lokaphiwat (‘extending across the world’), defining the former inaccurate and misleading (see Reynolds 1998: 126 and Kasian 1996a). The use of lokaphiwat should have inferred a positive feeling, suggesting seeing globalization also as an opportunity (Hamilton-Hart 1999: 292).xxvi The debate gained momentum with the crisis which caused on one side the re-emergence of the criticism against ‘development’ and the ‘westernisation’ of the country, and on the other a view of the crisis as the result of an inadequacy of Thai society to the globalised economy. It is in this discursive arena that the King Bhumibol’s speech at the end of 1997 is embedded, legitimizing de facto the localist approach. The crisis is assumed by both sides to support their own position: for the localists as symptom of a longstanding and deep-seated problem of unequal development and effect of global capitalism, for the globalisers as manifestation of deeper problems long ignored by Thai politicians (Hamilton-Hart 1999: 302). Interestingly enough, in both cases ‘governance’ finds a legitimate place. ‘Good governance’ as an expression, emerged in Thailand after the crisis and, as with globalization, it immediately sparked a debate over its possible translations.xxvii To render it in Thai language meant on one side making it accessible to the ordinary men (and women) and on the other setting its political implications. As with globalization, it is not only a matter of being as close as possible to the ‘original’ meaning, but rather to define the meaning this should take in Thai society. This process does not take place in a political and cultural vacuum but is embedded in existing historically contrived political positions. As mentioned in the previous section, three main political positions can be delineated in terms of Thai good governance, or to say it with Kasian (1998) three visions: one stressing power (conservative or autocratic), one emphasizing the role of the market (liberal), and the third democracy (communitarian).
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา Good governance first appeared in the Thai political discourse as thammarat, the term was used to refer to ‘good governance’ in an open letter to the government written by a group of academics from Thammasat University right after the burst of the crisis. The letter urged the cabinet to employ the principles of ‘good governance’ to manage the crisis, resorting to people’s participation, accountability of government agencies and building a strong civil society (Chantana n.d.). The new word invented by this group of scholars is formed by thamma and rat, the first means ‘righteous’, ‘good’, but it also indicates the Dharma, the Buddha’s teaching; the second means ‘state’, ‘government’. Thamma is generally considered first of all a religious concept and, as such, positively connoted. It implies a sense of morality based on principles of fairness and justice (thammanun is a basic law as in
ratthammanun, constitution). The use of thamma is not confined to the religious realm, but its perception remains first and foremost a religious one. Although it was never used before, as far as I know, in combination with rat, it probably finds a historical and cultural precedent in the word thammaracha (‘righteous king’), that some authors take as a point of reference to discuss what thammarat should represent (Pricha 1999, Phittaya 1998). The word rat, on the contrary, literally means state, and is a very common word bound to a political notion (rattaban is ‘government’, rattasat political science).xxviii A second translation that is now becoming more popular is thammaphiban. This rendering of ‘good governance’ in Thai is generally ascribed to TDRI (see e.g. Narumon 1998: 122-123) and emerged as a clear attempt to find a more appropriate (in their view) term to translate ‘good governance’ than thammarat. In this version the word thamma is again employed, but is instead associated with aphiban, literally meaning ‘to protect, to look after’, endowing it with a sense of paternalistic form of governance.xxix In an administrative sense it was used in the past in
deconcentrated system of state administration. The word aphiban is now not commonly used, it sounds very nice and elegant, but many people do not know it and neither comprehend it. One of its promoters justified his choice with two sets of reasons. First the roots of the two words thamma and aphiban assume a meaning closer to the English ‘good governance’ than thammarat, second the term
thammarat is limited to the state, excluding the private sector, the so-called ‘good
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา corporate governance’, while the term thammaphiban has a wider application (Borwornsak 1999: 17, footnote).xxx Another translation that was suggested at the beginning, was pracharat, but was soon dismissed. It is formed by the word pracha, meaning ‘people’, and rat, which we have already encountered. The word had already been employed by political scientist Chai-anan Samudavanija in the meaning, as he wrote, of ‘soctate’ (society + state) or civil state, indicating a new way of conceiving the relationship between people and the state, reshaped by globalization and the new information technology that will allow the creation of a transnational community (we should keep in mind that Chai-anan used to be one fervent globaliser).xxxi We also find it employed in the sense of ‘good governance’ by a technocrat (Orapin 1998), while in the 8th National Economic and Social Development Plan is translated as ‘popular governance’, advocating an improved relationship between state and citizens (in both cases the term disappeared thereafter). Connors (2002) recently analyzed the use of pracharat as an ideal state formation to which the program of establishment of ‘civic assemblies’ (prachakhom) promoted by LDI and Civicnet, aims. In this sense, pracharat would represent the outcome of a ‘total reform of the state’ based on the principles of ‘good governance’. Finally there is an expression employed mainly by government agencies to ‘describe’ good governance. It is not a translation, but rather a description of what ‘good governance’ should be: rabop borihan chatkan thidi (good administration system) or, in its longest version rabop borihan kitkan banmuang lae sangkhom
thidi (good system of administration of the country’s affairs and society) as spelled out in the regulation of 1999. The Regulation of the Office of the Prime Minister on Good Governance issued in 1999 by Chuan Leekpai sets six principles or rules: rule of law (nititham), integrity (khunnatham), transparency (khwamprongsai), participation (khwammisuanruam), accountability (khwamrapphitchop), value for money (kwamkhumkha). Do they all mean ‘good governance’? How are these expressions employed, in which contexts? Can we draw a line between each of them and English versions? Schaffer similarly questioned the difference between the French concept démocratie and the Wolof demokaraasi both employed in Senegalese political discourse, and explored their uses by political elites drawing a distinction between demokaraasi as
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา a concept and as a set of practices. Referring to Wittengstein’s family-resemblances theoryxxxii, Schaffer argued that the different forms that ‘democracy’ assumes share some analogies, but there is not a universal notion of democracy that underpins them all, rather an ‘overlapping and crisscrossing of similarities’ (1998: 144-5).xxxiii These concepts’ features do not come from nowhere, their differences and similarities, it is here sustained, rise from their ‘consumption’, an act of consumption that assumes different social and cultural values according to who is using them and in which context.
Consuming good governance To re-contextualise the policy agenda does not imply only to translate it, even though this plays a crucial role in determining its re-contextualisation process, embedding it in a specific political culture and conveying defined meanings. The analysis of academic writings, that elaborate on the meaning and substance of ‘good governance’, and of the materials produced by those projects related with it, will reveal how the policy is used in the Thai context. I will thus try to disclose how an externally produced policy can acquire historical and cultural referents in the present, underpinned by different interest groups’ agendas. Rejecting the idea of a passive ‘consumption’ of policies, the creativity of the consumers is explored, including those acts of resistance or subversion that endow the ‘commodity’ with specific values. From an anthropological perspective goods, as policies, are part and parcel of a framework of social meanings, they represent a ‘visible part of culture’ (Douglas & Isherwood 1996: 44). Consuming means to communicate, and the analysis of texts and practices of ‘good governance’ implies studying this process of communication. I will start with possibly the most popular author on ‘good governance’ in Thailand and probably one of the first who wrote on the newly acquired concept. It is well-known social thinker, ex-student leader of the 1970s protests, Thirayut Bunmii who brought to popularity the term thammarat. Thirayut became the ‘thammarat man’, as a magazine titled in its front cover in June 1998 (phuchai
thammarat).xxxiv He had published a booklet earlier that year where he presented his agenda, under the title Strong society, National Good Governance: Strategy to
rescue Thailand from disaster (see Thirayut 1998). His ‘manifesto’ embraced the
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา international concept of ‘good governance’, based on transparency, justice, accountability and efficiency, but with a ‘national twist’, embedding it in the Thai cultural background. He talked of a ‘Thai soul and International heart’ –
winyanthai chaisakon) and of a middle way cutting through both the nationalist thinking and the universalistic one (ibid.: 37, 30). The project implied a ‘self-reform’ of the society to increase the country’s political and social capital, in order to reinforce the economic one (ibid.: 15). This can be reached, in his view, with the involvement of the private sector, state and civil society and pushing for a real application of the new constitution. He compared the present crisis with the struggle endured by the kingdom to remain independent from Western powers in the colonial era. At that time Thailand chose the ‘VIA-MODERNA’ like Japan, rather than a ‘VIA-ANTIQUA’ like China and it proved successful. Now the choice is between a ‘VIA-REFORMA’ and a ‘VIA-CONSERVATICA’ (ibid.: 59-60). Thirayut’s stated aim is to raise the awareness of the people, so that they become conscious of their rights and fight for them (he talked for example of consumer’s rights, suggesting it is something that people understand and are ready to fight for).xxxv His use of the concept of ‘good governance’ is hence instrumental to his agenda of social activist. The final goal is to improve power relations in Thai society, but he nevertheless abandoned the more radical leftist position to assume a ‘middle way’ that does not reject the market and capitalism, but advocates gradual changes that will come mainly from the middle class civil society. He launched his
thammarat campaign building on previously constructed notion of ‘strong civil society’, realizing that the crisis represented a invaluable opportunity for pushing further the political reform process initiated after the 1992 massacre and culminated with the passage of the new constitution. Thirayut’s program seemed to have some following with the organization of the already mentioned ‘Good Governance Forum’ (something he advocated in his writings), but it soon lost widespread support. He was attacked by more radical sectors of the society (grass-roots movements and leftist activists) and slowly abandoned by the technocratic liberal reformists that initially sided him. The political figure that represented Thirayut’s liberal counterpart is Anand Panyarachun, who promoted the concept of ‘transparency’, assuming the word
khwamprongsai to render it in Thai. This is a word that already existed in Thai, but that was for the first time employed by Anand in political discourse, opposed to
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา corruption, and advocating a reform of the public administration. Together with Thirayut he became the promoter (at least for a short period of time) of ‘good governance’ as a means to keep pushing forward the political and administrative reforms beyond the approval of the Constitution (Pasuk & Baker 2000: 125).xxxvi While both stances recognized the opportunity the crisis represented to pursue radical reforms in the country, the final aim was different. Social activists saw it as a means to achieve improved power relations in the society, liberal technocrats seemed in turn to view the process (through the principles of transparency, accountability and participation) as the tool to get a better-managed (and manageable) society.xxxvii The different values with which the two political stances were trying to endow ‘good governance’, are symbolized by the shift in the translation adopted: from the initial thammarat to thammaphiban.xxxviii In this perspective the liberal position tends to merge with the conservative one that equates ‘good governance’ with ‘good leadership’ based on the assumption that is part of Thai culture derived by the patron-client system of the past. In the latter case it takes a staunchly nationalistic turn, as for example in some military cliques and conservative civil servants (see Narumon 1998: 125).xxxix The idea of good leadership frequently came up in my conversations in Thailand, as when asking a civil servant why he/she thought a department he/she mentioned as performing better than others in promoting ‘good governance’ managed to reach such results, the answer I would get is ‘good leadership’. The liberal/paternalistic clique also tried to embed the concept in the national historical background, but the strategy differed significantly from Thirayut’s. The historical and cultural roots of Thai good governance are here identified in its Royal and Buddhist traditions (e.g. Borwornsak 1999, Pramuan 1999, Pricha 1999xl, Anand 1999). Both Anand (1999, 2000)xli and Borwornsak (1999) suggested that the concept find its origins in what Anand defined ‘Royal Good Governance’. Borwornsak actually started off with the analysis of the ‘ancient’ patronage structure (uppatham) to see how part of this culture arrived until today, with the ‘unofficial’ patron-client system (uppatham maipenthangkan) conveying its principles of ‘Thai original good governance’ (thammaphiban bep thai doem) (1998: 152-166). To define a ‘Buddhist good governance’, in order to weld it together
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา with this older Thai good governance, Borwornsak recovered the idea of
thammaracha or ‘righteous King’. He, like Anand, referred to a decalogue (thotsaphit ratchatham) promoted during the reign of Rama IV (King Mongkut, 1851-1868) designed to set some limits to the absolute power of the monarch (1999: 37).xlii In his lecture at NIDA (2000) Anand gives a long excursion back to the time of the kingdom of Sukhothai (13th – 14th centuries), when the monarch, even if he had absolute power, was to hear the opinion and advises of other people. The reference to the Sukhothai period is actually recurrent in Thai political thinking. According to Jackson (1991), reformists in Thai society have idealized this era (usually in contrast with the subsequent authoritarian kingdom of Ayutthaya) and they have been tracing the roots of the democratic aspect of Thai Buddhism to this historical period.
This idealization of Sukhothai represents an attempt to develop an indigenous basis of Thai political and religious thought and Thai values which support democracy and social justice (ibid.: 211). It was King Mongkut that while still a monk recovered the following inscription by Phra Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai dated 1293:
In the entering in of the gate is a bell hung up there. If folk aggrieved within town or city have controversies or matters that distress them within and cramp their hearts, which they would declare unto their lord and prince, - there is no difficulty. Go ring the bell which he has hung up there. Prince Khŭn Răm Khămhaeng, lord of the real, can hear the call. When he has made investigation, he sifts the case for them according to right.xliii Anand suggested this reflected the concern of Thai people for democracy throughout their history (2000: 5). Thai ‘good governance’ is part of this historical political heritage and, according to Anand, differs therefore from the one that emerged in the West, where the state mechanism had to be established in order to control power. On the contrary in Thailand ‘good governance’ came in the form of
thotsaphit ratchatham, moral principles that guide the governing style, a form of
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา self-control of the ruler in using power.xliv It is interesting that also the head of the Public Sector Reform Project Management Office during my interview as first thing underlined that good governance is a rule of society and was part of thotsaphit
ratchatham, ‘ten rules of the King for governance’.xlv This approach finds relevance also in the reforms of the civil service, as the already mentioned Ethics Promotion Center’s project titled ‘Following the Royal Footsteps’. The project is aimed at instilling work ethics in the civil servants taking the King as example of morality, kindness, hard work, sacrifice and a model of good leader, good ruler and perfect in the ten royal principles (thotsaphit ratchatham). It is basically a training project to become ‘an exemplary civil servant and a force for the nation’, following the example of the King and his ten ‘moral principles’ (as
thotsaphit ratchatham is translated in the pamphlet on the project). Here the equation of ‘good governance’ with ‘good leadership’ is made explicit using a cultural epitome deeply set in Thai society, such as the monarchy. As an intellectual commented: ‘in Thailand you cannot avoid to deal with the throne’ (interview with the author). Although Anand and Borwornsak emphasize the role of Buddhism and ‘royal good governance’ in today’s Thai politics, they also advocate a change in the bureaucratic culture and underline the need to adapt the administration of the country to the changing economic structure. Thus there is not an attempt to lead the country back to an idealized past (the allegiance to democracy and liberal capitalism is here confirmed), rather Thai cultural heritage is revised to root the principles of the ‘universal good governance’. On the other side of the political arena, that of the community-based stance, close to radical social activism and grass-roots movement, we find a radical reinterpretation of good governance that at times becomes a complete rejection of the concept itself. It is the case of the of NGOs and community organizations for example, as observed by Pasuk and Baker The attempt to domesticate and propagate the idea of “good governance”, promoted by the World Bank, was transformed by Thai NGOs into a restatement of the idea of locality, community, and self-reliance (2000: 195).
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา This was true especially at the beginning, with people like Prawese Wasi trying to combine the idea of good governance with the ‘new philosophy’ of selfsufficient economy.xlvi In his speech delivered at one of the Good Governance Forum seminars above mentioned, he underlined the concept of ‘correctness’ or ‘rightness’ (khwamthuktong or tham) implicit in the idea of ‘good governance’ whose characteristics, relevant both for the state, the corporate sector and civil society, are honesty, accountability (khwamrapphitchop), transparency, cooperation, strength in wisdom and learning. At its foundation is a strong society, which is for him ‘civil society’, the most important element of good governance (reported in Prawese 1999: 1-2). Prawese basically used the buzzword ‘good governance’ to underline his proposal of reform agenda based on: new values and social awareness, self-sufficient economy and civil society, reform of macro-economic and financial sectors, state administration system, education system, mass media and legal system (ibid.: 2-3). Another figure close to the NGO sector and to the reformist movement is Sophon Suphaphong. He now sits in the upper House and is part of that group of senators who promotes social reform and people’s rights. In the Good Governance forum he was reported to similarly trying to equate self-sufficiency with ‘economic good governance’, underlining the importance of monitoring, transparency, but also stressing that ‘selling the country’s property to repay financial institutes’ debts’ showed lack of ‘governance’ since there wasn’t ‘openness’ and ‘people were not consulted’ (Thammarat haeng chat 1998: 64). Sophon, as ex-managing director of a state oil refinery to be privatized, was directly affected by the IMF governanceimplications, and it is probably for this reason that the policy was not for him easy to re-contextualise and adapt to the reformist agenda. More recently, during one of the meetings for the constitution of the People’s network against corruption, he strongly objected to the use of the word thammarat (and ‘good governance’) in the projects’ working plan as one of the impacts of the project (the network’s activities being a concrete example of good governance). He argued that the use of ‘good governance’ was ambiguous, it was employed by the World Bank to get clear and open accounts of the state’s business organizations to sell them off to foreigners; this is not a ‘good governance’ that takes on the responsibility of poverty, he stated. The word (both its Thai and its English version) disappeared from the plan thereafter to become ‘good administration’ (borihanchatkan thidi): efficiency,
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา transparency and correctness.xlvii This is an example of rejection that will assume a more structured form in a radical political scientist as Saneh Chamarik that accused good governance as a ‘new legitimacy for the capitalist group’ sustaining that ‘the only reform that this country urgently needs is the re-distribution of land and tax’ (in Chantana n.d.). The policy agenda is here identified with the political and economic elites both national and international and as such is resisted. An extreme position is the Marxist view of Ji Ungpakorn (political scientist at Chulalongkorn University). He attacked Thirayut’s perspective, alongside the international community’s one, arguing that it assumes the existence of a ‘national will’ (chettana haengchat) able to decide what is good and what is not (1998: 164). He analyzed the different aspects of ‘good governance’ (participation, transparency, accountability) to remark that we cannot expect fairness from a capitalist system and that ‘good governance’ can come only with a shift from capitalism to a more fair system, not through a reform driven by the business sector and the middle class (as Thirayut and others suggest). While criticizing the concept he nevertheless manages to give a possible reversed interpretation of it, suggesting a ‘proletarian good governance’ (thammarat khong kammachip) that in the long term will remove the capitalist system, while in the short term, read in time of crisis, it should be worried about protecting the working class from the impact of the economic failures (ibid.: 172).xlviii Either used to pursue one’s own political agenda, or rejected as an alien (and alienating) product, ‘good governance’ is not passively ‘consumed’ in Thailand, but re-elaborated, re-contextualised, and endowed with new political and cultural meanings. These meanings range from a middle-class social activism’s self-reform to a paternalistic moral principle of self-control and a liberal enhanced legal and administrative system. Good governance’s foreign origin is easily dismissed in one recent booklet: ‘even though this concept comes from abroad it has already been translated in Thai’ (Pracharak 2000: 8). This reminds me of a boy in a small island of southern Thailand who thought that Levi’s was a Thai brand, is this cultural domination or rather a form of ‘active consumption’? Nevertheless both the young boy who wears his jeans with national pride and Thai intellectuals that see ‘good governance’ as
thammarat or thammaphiban are deluded. Their ‘consumption’, although active
วิทยานิพนธฉบับนี้ไดรับการสนับสนุนจากสถาบันพระปกเกลา and creative, is constrained by unequal relations of economic power and knowledge. If the boy has no (or very limited) control over the multinational enterprises that invade the local market, Thai intellectual and policy-makers’ ‘uses’ of ‘good governance’ are inevitably shaped by the international hegemonic discourse on it. The present research placed itself in that body of works that sees development as a discursive field, a system of power and knowledge producing Foucauldian ‘régimes of truth’. In this perspective we have seen how the recent ‘good governance’ policy agenda is founded on transcendental scientific knowledge and depoliticises the political realm on which it intervenes. I nevertheless moved beyond the analysis of this system of power to focus on the spaces of ‘creativeness’ within which at the ‘local’ level the re-contextualisation process of development policies takes place. I have shown the existence of these spaces and the cultural and social values here produced in the specific instance of ‘good governance’ in Thailand. The ‘space of creativity’ of the consumer will differ according to the country in question and the time framework, thus an analysis of other recontextualisation processes will reveal the changing nature of power relations both within the country and between this and the international development industry. The two levels of inquiry, on power and discourse and on policies and practices, inform each other and we cannot understand either of the two without considering the other.
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Development, on the other hand, for its historical role of ‘science of “less developed” peoples’, has been defined as anthropology’s ‘evil twin’ (Ferguson 1997), and development anthropology, ‘for all its claim to relevance to local problems, to cultural sensitivity, and to access to interpretative holistic methods’, has been criticized to have ‘done no more than recycle, and dress in more localized fabrics, the discourses of modernization and development’
1991: 677). ii
See also Hobart (1993) on the role of development discourse in creating ‘ignorance’ in the clash between ‘scientific’ and local knowledge.
Archer defined it ‘a cluster of policy ideas’ (1994: 7).
While for Leftwich (1993) the importance placed on ‘good governance’ by World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) stands out as a break with past development policies experiences, according to Moore (1996) in the case of the Americans/Africa relation it does not represent anything new.
Leftwich includes here as well the re-emergence of neo-liberalism in the West, but it seems to me that this supported more structural adjustment, rather than the idea of ‘getting your government right’.
Neo-liberal policies first concentrated on economic management and are by and large represented by the so-called Washington Consensus that emerged in early 1990s down the halls of the World Bank and IMF. The name ‘Washington Consensus’ was first used by the economist John Williamson to define a list of 10 ‘recommendations’ of political economy: fiscal discipline, redirection of public expenditure, tax reform, financial liberalization, single and competitive exchange rate, trade liberalization, removal of barriers to foreign direct investments, privatization of state-owned enterprises, deregulating market entry and competition, ensuring secure property rights (in Naim 1999).
The original work by Kaufmann & others (1999) draws from a wide range of data sources, but their stated focus is ‘limited to measuring the perceptions of interested parties – residents of a country, entrepreneurs, foreign investors, and civil society at large – regarding the quality of governance in a country’ (ibid.: 2). The aim of the work is to provide ‘new empirical evidence of a strong causal relationship from improved governance to better development outcomes’ (ibid.: 3). The latter is here measured as per capita incomes, infant mortality and adult literacy (ibid.: 12) and further effort is put into revealing the ‘direct effects of governance’, not to rely on ‘simple correlations’ that ‘do not control for other determinants of development, and may also reflect a reverse causation from development to governance’ (ibid.). It is interesting this ‘strong drive’ that underpins these kind of researches, that seems connected to that ‘will to truth’ that Foucault spots in Western thinking since Plato, this epistemological need to dissect reality in search of a hidden profound meaning. It seems to me that the use of econometrics is driven by the same will to ‘discover’ the inner causal relationships that ordinary people cannot see. These researches are in turn informed by and contribute to the ‘régime of truth’ that a society has, with truth ‘linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it’ (Foucault 1980: 133).
A similar terminology is adopted also by the Australian international development agency (AusAID). In a diagram featuring the ‘operational framework’ to achieve an ‘effective governance’, four strategic areas are identified: economic management, public sector management, legal systems and civil representation. To assist partners to develop each of the main strategic areas the terminology adopted is: improving, strengthening, and promoting its
efficacy (Lyon 2000: 89). ix
The section on ‘The role of governance in the Bank’s response to the Asian financial crisis’ opens with the following statement by ADB Vice President: ‘East Asia reeled. The world paused. The bank acted.’ (ADB 1999a: 18).
Director of Programs West Department, ADB.
During my interview with the resident representative of the IMF in Thailand emerged the internal discussion on their low-profile in terms of ‘public relations’ that have often led to be pinpointed as the scapegoat of local resentment towards international intervention. Personally while I am convinced that PR activities are essential, I find it quite reductive to ascribe popular (and academic) criticism to a lack of proper self-promotion.
Thanon Biyada and Chaiyawat Wibulswasdi were, respectively, the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Bank of Thailand under the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh’s government.
For a good overview of Thailand/IMF relations after the crisis see Pasuk and Baker 2000 (35-68).
In a later work the indivisibility of human development and governance is stated in the following way: For people to realize their potential and enlarge the scope of their choices, the social, economic and political environments must reflect notions of security, participation, co-operation, equity, and sustainability. The term governance is commonly used to describe the processes that generate these conditions. In this way, governance and sustainable human development can be seen to be indivisible’ (UNDP 1998).
The ‘Regulation of the Office of the Prime Minister on Good Governance’ was promulgated in October 1999 and sets the principles of a ‘national agenda’ to promote good governance in the country.
As matter of fact even where cultural differences and the existence of different social norms is acknowledged, and the importance to take them into consideration is stressed (see for example World Bank 1992: 8-9), the jargon used to describe national institutions is ‘lack of’, suggesting a void to be filled (e.g. ‘lack of an adequate legal framework (…) of capacity or to volition (…) an educated and trained work force’ - ibid.: 4,9, 10). Variety is further framed in
evolutionary terms with each country being ‘at a different level of political, economic, and social development’ (ibid.: 9). The ability of development discourse to depoliticise specific issues has been
poignantly underlined by Ferguson (1990) in his analysis of World Bank’s projects in Lesotho, where the author defines the development industry as an ‘anti-politics machine’ that purges reality from its political nature. On this issues see also Williams 1995. xviii
According to Foucault the effect of this sort of delimitation of the ‘field of objects’
is to make it impossible to think outside them, to do it is, by definition, to be mad, hence outside reason (Foucault 1981: 48). xix
I am referring here particularly to the set World Bank/IMF. An economist of the Bank referred to their relation in these terms: ‘World Bank cleans up the mess the IMF leaves behind’; while the IMF representative complained about the fact that they get all the ‘blame’ [while World Bank doesn’t] in order to get what they want from governments.
Thaksin Shinawrata (current Thai PM) delivered a speech a few months after his election at
ESCAP (UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
Pacific) in Bangkok to an international audience, where he stated that good governance in Thailand brought more public debt and hindered poverty alleviation. Of course this provoked wide criticism and ample comments regionally, to the point that at the next occasion (in Hong Kong a couple of weeks later at the Fortune Global Forum) he delivered a new speech underlining the firm commitment of his administration to reform and restructuring of the public sector. Again in a later intervention, this time in a ‘Thai’ setting (talking to Thai ambassadors and consuls), he stated that Thailand will not accept any international assistance ‘with strings attached’, but that he himself adhere to good governance: ‘You can see that my company has receive a good governance award’! (The Nation 2001) xxi
Interesting in this sense, are the reflections of Kasian on the use of ‘democracy’ in Thailand. He referred to ‘democracy’ as a ‘free floating signifier’, in which it
dissolved itself in the crash with its cross-cultural, cross-language impact. Reflecting on the various forms of transcription or adaptation in neologisms or paleologisms the word of ‘democracy’ underwent in non-western countries he observed that ‘one should not lose sight of the fact that this transformation is a crucial tactical maneuver in terms of cultural politics’ (1996b: 7). He talked of a process of commoditization that ‘democracy’ underwent, hence assuming ‘universal exchange value’ which is used ‘as a cultural political asset and weapon in their own [different social political groups’] political struggle’ (ibid.: 8). In Thai society he identified the following socio-political groups: Thai absolute monarchs, bureaucratic promoters, ultra-royalists, military, provincial mafias, middle classes, radical populist activists, each of them creating different signifieds for the same signifier (prachathipatai, democracy in Thai. Ibid.: 9-10). He concluded that ‘it is impossible to transport and transplant intact a fixed signifier with definite signifieds and unchanging referents from one culture and language to another because there are no such things in the first place’ (ibid.: 12). Similarly Chairat Charoensin-o-larn suggested that ‘good governance’ (thammarat) is a ‘floating signifier’ that ‘anyone who grasps it can use for different purposes in any occasions’ (1999: 77). Many etymons of ethnic designations signify the human race, man, human being
and so on, as for the term Djawa (Java) which, according to Geertz, means ‘human’, and where children, insane, boors are defined ndurung djava, ‘not human yet (or Javanese)’ (1973: 52). xxiii
Several people I had the chance to interview and/or discuss with during my stay
in Bangkok pointed out to me that ‘before’ everything was ‘globalization’, just as after 1997 ‘everything was good governance’. xxiv
Criticisms against ‘Western development’ and the lost of ‘true’ Thai culture
(superseded by consumerism and materialism) are not new, they precede the advent of the concept of ‘globalization’, such as Sulak Sivaraksa’s Buddhist social critique. The roots of this criticism can be found in the so-called ‘Cult of Imitation’ (from the title of a writing by King Vajiravudh in 1915, after the Siamese had lost parts of their empire to France and Britain), the concern about the risks of ‘copying foreign models’ that we still encounter today in ‘Thai
cultural debates about whether foreign products, be they consumer products, political systems, health regulations, or even sexual identities are suitable to be copied’ (Reynolds 1998: 131). For example in the Thai archaeology and heritage magazine, Muan Boran, in
early 1994 feature an article whose title in Thai was chak “lokanuwat’ tung
“lokawibat” nai sangkhom thai rendered in English with Effects of Globalisation on Thai Society, but actually meaning ‘from Globalisation to global catastrophe in Thai society’, playing on the words lokanuwat and lokawibat (in Reynolds 1998: 126). xxvi
Actually both words are formed by the word lok, commonly used in the meaning
of ‘world’, and a second word (anuwat and aphiwat) that is not in use (in the case of anuwat is a Pali-derived word) and whose original meaning ordinary people do not know. xxviiThe
word ‘governance’ already appeared in the Political Science Vocabulary of
the Royal Institute in 1993 as withikanpokkhrong (‘administration method’), but apparently it wasn’t taken up for the translation of ‘good governance’. This is what the Royal Institute did in its newest edition of the dictionary published in 2001, where ‘good governance’ is translated as kanchatkanborihan thidi and as
withikanpokkhrong thidi (Michael Nelson, personal communication). xxviii
Actually Thirayut Bunmii pointed out to me that ‘rat’ in its Sanskrit-derived
version would be ‘ratsadon’, hence ‘people’, ‘populace’. xxix
During an interview I was informed that there is a Thai maxim that says ‘the
role of the state is to destroy the bad people and to protect the good ones’, using ‘aphiban’ in the meaning of ‘to protect’. Kasian commented that the use of thammaphiban, taking away the word rat,
meant depoliticizing the concept, with thammaphiban sounding more like ‘administrative morality’ (interview with the author). xxxi
See the collection of essays published for the first time in 1999 (2nd edition 2000)
under the title Pracharat kap kan plianplaeng, that presents as its English
version Governance and Changes, hence equating pracharat with governance. Compare with Chai-anan (1998) where pracharat is used in the meaning of ‘good governance’ in connection with education and political reform. xxxii
Wittengstein’s family-resemblance theory underlines the shifts of meaning
undergone by different words that are interrelated. He gave the example of ‘game’ demonstrating how the different kind of games (political, Olympic, card games) all have something in common still there is not one single feature they all share, there is rather an overlapping and criss-crossing of several ones as with family resemblances, e.g. eye-color, body figure, temperament etc. (in Schaffer 1998: 145). xxxiiiAn
anthropological perspective on political language did not emerge until the
late 1970s, when it was finally considered as a legitimate object of anthropological studies (Shore & Wright 1997: 18). Those seminal works are summarized in Grillo (1989) and Parkin (1984). See also Duranti (1994) for a more recent, linguistic approach. xxxiv
It was the Thai language magazine People, second fortnight, June 1998. The
magazine cover featured a portrait of Thirayut Bunmii and the caption title ‘and the strategy to rescue Thailand from disaster’ (kap yutthasat ku hayana prathet
In the interview that I luckily had the chance to have with him he underlined
that his aim was, as in other past experiences, to carry out a campaign ‘to expand people’s consciousness’. He seems to believe that ‘good governance’ will come in its own pace, that people need their time to feel their right to intervene and step in the political arena, as it was with other fights for civil liberties in the past. xxxvi
The couple Anand-Thirayut did not last long. While Anand Panyarachun is still
on the scene as promoter of the movement of political reform embodying the values of transparency, civil society and ‘good governance’, Thirayut Bunmii seems to have deserted this institutional realm because he perceived that it aimed only at preserving the status quo (personal communication of one of his
‘colleagues’). In his own words: ‘I was asked to join a group at TDRI, but I disagreed with the term they used [thammaphiban], it reflected the technocratic attitude’. Pasuk and Baker (2000: 127) referred to the two groups as liberal and
conservative reformers, but I rather follow the use of the adjective ‘liberal’ not necessarily opposed to ‘conservative’ but referring to the political economic doctrine that goes under that name, as for example in Kasian (1998). xxxviii
Anand acknowledged the difficulty of translating ‘good governance’ in Thai. He
defers the ‘confusion’ emerged between thammarat and thammaphiban to the decision of the Royal Academy (1999: 37, 34). While a public official during an interview referred to his conversation with Anand Panyarachun in which they concluded that thammaphiban should be the ideal choice, it seems, for the time being, that the choice fell on kanchatkanborihan thidi and withikanpokkhrong
thi di (see n. xxvii). xxxix
The association of good governance with ‘good leadership’ can be read in terms
of patriarchalism. As noted by Francisco (2000) in South East Asian states ‘in the contemporary deployment of power, resistance and contests around the interlocking issues of democracy, Asian values and economic Globalization, the patriarchal state reasserts its traditional hold on women as orthodox representations of some idealized concept of value in the past’ (2000: 3). The International
‘masculinisation’ of the concept, with a positive value ascribed to qualities usually considered as characterizing the male human being, namely strength coupled with the ability and efficiency in fighting. xl
Pricha in his thammarat-thammaracha actually rejects the equation good governance-thammarat stating that this is rather ‘good state’, while good governance is closer to thammathipatai, roughly ‘righteous sovereignty’ (1999: 51). Thammarat, in his view, should be thammaracha, so basically good leadership, based on a good balance between the leader’s power and people’s freedom (ibid.: 117). On thammathipatai see also Phittaya (1998: 7-12), for him this is the highest form of government that, if taken to its extreme, means ‘not
being governed’, because the administration is led by the religious principles of morality and fairness. Linking political administration to religion is not something new: Prawese (1988) had already recommended one should subordinate political decisions to religious standards. xli
Chris Baker suggested (personal communication) that after 1999 the language on good governance changed together with the international image of the IMF, that failed to face the crisis situation. People like Anand understood that could not adhere to the international idea of good governance any longer so started to root it into the Thai cultural background disregarding the more technical part. In this sense it is worth to draw a comparison with earlier writings, such as Anand (1997) where the historical Royalist roots are not so underlined yet. Nevertheless distinguished academics as Borwornsak and Pricha were already advancing and strongly supporting this kind of interpretation. The reforms carried out by King Mongkut emphasized the concept of ‘humanity’
with a new version of Buddhism. xliii
Cornelius Beach Bradley “The Oldest Known writing in Siamese: the Inscription
of Phra Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai 1293 a.d.”, Journal Siam Society, VI, 1909, 26. Quoted in Moffat 1961: 35. This inscription has been actually the source of a ‘controversy’, with some sustaining that it actually a fake, produced by Prince Damrong (one of Mongkut’s sons) to build the myth of Thai Kings (see Chamberlain 1991). xliv
Similarly Phittaya Wonkun, from a ‘communitarian’ stance, argued that ‘good governance’ is a western system to amend the liberal democratic system. The western system was imposed on the eastern one, erasing the previously existing one which was based on an ‘fair administration’, a thammaracha, that differs from the western concept of absolute monarchy. This is a ‘good governance’ based on a spiritual development not on administration devices (Phittaya 1998: 6-8). He also mentioned the thotsaphit ratchatham as the pragmatic and theoretical rules to ensure that who has power will govern in a just and righteous way (thamma).
Asked what he thought about the association of good governance with Buddhism and Royalty, Thirayut ironically replied: ‘we have freedom of thought!’ Tanet Charoenmuang pointed out that the two concepts, good governance and
self-sufficient economy, were introduced together in the country in mid-1998 thanks to Anand Panyarachun, Prawese Wasi and Thirayut Bunmii. However ‘good governance’ started to be criticized by several NGOs ‘for being too broad and as a result vague and tending to enable the government to acquire greater revenue and to repay the bills to the foreign lender’, it was thus rejected while the self-sufficient economy campaign retained its popularity (1999: 43). In my opinion this is true only to a certain extent, as noticed the jargon employed by radical thinkers and NGOs representatives often buy in that of ‘good governance’ and, nevertheless, while grass-roots associations might have taken a critical stance (underpinned by some good reasons) within government agencies the concept is still very popular and object of consistent discussion. xlvii
The use of borihanchatkan thidi, the government translation for ‘good
governance’, seems thus to have a value-free connotation compared with
thammarat that was here criticized as ‘international good governance’. xlviii
Similarly Thirayut’s book has been criticized as a ‘complete erasure of class
politics’ and through ‘its pursuit of national harmony and sacrifice for national capital’, of making the author truly an intellectual of Thailand Inc.’ (Connors 1999).