January 24, 2020 in History
Buddhist Ethics and Thailand’s Politics

Historical record testifies that religion has influenced Thai political situation to a greater extent. The impact of religion, Buddhism in particular, on Thai politics has been considered ambiguous. Throughout its history, Thailand has been characterized by the integrity in political, economic, and social senses. On the other hand, monarchism, traditionalism, and military interventionism were and remain to these days Thailand’s distinctive features. Evidently, Thai model of monarchy and traditionalism differ from its western counterpart. Throughout its history, Thailand has been through a series of coups. More or less peaceful, coups have become an essential element of Thai history. But more importantly, coups to these days remain an integral part of Thai political and social culture.

Throughout its history, Thailand as a state and its people have been through a series of coups/rebellions, the most fierce of which took place in a period starting from 1932 and up till 2006. Apart from that, political, economic, and thus, social transformations in Thailand are taking place at a very low pace. Contemplating the political history and the present of Thailand, the researchers make the statement as follows:

Thailand is further distinguished by the robust interplay of military and civilian politics,

by competing alliances of economic and bureaucratic elites, and by the appetite of the

army leadership for repeated efforts to consolidate control. This interventionist pattern

has been reinforced by the special status of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the royal

family, who have been ‘protected’ (kan raksa) by the army at almost any cost.

With regard to this, it is important to admit even though Tahiland is reputed a peaceful state, the authorities lay strong emphasis on the military doctrine.

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Pondering the possible reasons why military doctrine and practice and culture of coups enjoys the popularity in Thai community, the scholars point out the following. Firstly, employing culturally powerful military intervention technique is the distinctive feature of Thai political elites. Secondly, monarchy, in this respect, has proved itself to be powerful public leverage and a factor justifying military intervention as such. Thirdly, Thai authorities approve of the practice of military interventions with the great deal of tolerance. At the same time, functioning of economic elites, in its turn, happens to be the peculiar feature of Thai practice of military interventions. In this respect, recalibration of economy is typically listed among the possible outcomes of military interventionism and coups as such. On the other hand, the researchers admit that some officials are capable of taking the advantage of coups and may presumably do so. Lastly, nowadays, Thailand has an undivided and firm support of the world’s most successful states. All things considered, Thai are hardly disposed to transform the state’s political and economic systems as the latter may inevitably lead to the changes within Thai society itself that are impossible to apprehend. However, the scholars admit that there is a scenario under which Thailand’s transition from its military doctrine and the culture of coups to more democratic governing is possible.

The people of Thailand are law-abiding. Law in Thailand is intimately related to religion. Specifically, Thai laws are shaped by the Buddhist ethics. Kindness, peace of mind, and morality are considered to be the basic virtues of Buddhism. Buddhism is claimed to be grounded on the 4 main principles, the so-called “four noble thruths”, namely: duḥkha, samudāya, nirodha, and mārga. Duḥkha is based on a premise that all that exists is suffering. Samudāya is a principle pointing out strong desires lead to suffer. Nirodha is a principle admitting that all suffer is finite. According to mārga, suffer can be terminated by following the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path, in its turn, is grounded on three divisions: Prajñā (insight), Śīla (morality), and Samādhi (meditation). Prajñā implies making the right decisions and holding the right views. Kind and sage words, righteous livelihood, and good, noble deeds belong to the domain of morality. Right efforts, right mindfulness, and right meditation are essential for disciplining a mind and good physique. The three foregoing principles are also the integral elements of samādhi. Samsāra, Dharma, and Karma are the three key notions of Buddhism. Samsāra represents a string of infinite rebirths a person goes through. Dharma is a sacred law, a force that regulates everything that is taking place and controls all objects, entities, and beings. Karma is a one man’s fate, a law that works on you-get-what-you-give principle.

Despite of all the discrepancies that exist between the Buddhist practices and the religions of the West, philosophical concepts employed in the Western social and religious practices are capable of explaining the essence of Buddhism. Finally, seeking to contemplate the very gist of Buddhism, the researchers make the statement as follows:

… how can we know which is the authentic voice of Buddhism? This is one horn of the

dilemma. The other is that until we know what the Buddhist view is on any given

question, how can we engage in dialogues with it?.

All in all, the western religious systems and philosophical doctrines are woven into canvas of the history of the whole world. Hence, not a small amount of the developing countries have been influenced by the Western philosophies and religious faiths. Historical record testifies that harmonious coexistence of opposing and, perhaps, most especially, hostile cultures can only occur under the circumstances of promoting lenience, cross-cultural communication, and the practice of exchange of experience across the cultures.

Buddhism is considered one of the world’s most peaceful religious systems. Buddhism is grounded on the idea of recapturing harmony within oneself and the importance of understanding nature and merging with it. One of the central ideas of Buddhism is ridding the world of evil through eliminating person’s suffer. Suffer, in Buddhist practices, is regarded as a result of having passions. Apparently, Western philosophical practices have elaborated a haunting yet more complex understanding of suffers. Suffer in its global sense, specifically, suffering of peoples, is typically associated with social inequality. On the other hand, most of the religious systems agree that no evil exists outside the souls and minds of men. In this respect, violent behavior and evil deeds are by right regarded as the acts of deviant behavior. To put it more simply, Eastern and Western religious faiths and philosophies claim that it is not in a nature a human being to be evil. Basing on the foregoing statements, an inference can be made that Western and Eastern religious and philosophical practices are capable of coexisting harmoniously and complementing each other. With regard to this, Thailand can be viewed as an example of a state that may potentially share and exchange political, economic, and social experiences with other states through combining different philosophical systems.

All in all, Thailand has proved itself to be a unique state in the sense that in spite of the social unrest that exists to these days, Thailand is reputed to be one of the world’s most peaceful states. Seeking mainly for personal profit, the authorities of Thailand are hardly disposed to apply political, social, and economic transformations. In its current state, Thailand keeps to its military doctrine, monarchism, traditionalism, and the culture of coups. Undivided and firm international support, crucial importance of the economic elites, tolerance for military interventions, and defending monarchy are listed among the possible reason why the practice of coups is to these days tolerated in Thailand. Thailand is a Buddhist state and Buddhism disapproves of violent acts of any kind. For this reason, Buddhism can be accused of advocating the coups by no means. Evidently, there is a slight discrepancy between the existing political regime and the religious system of Thailand. To eliminate this discrepancy, Thai authorities should, perhaps, take the steps as follows. Decrease the impact of economic elites. Reconsider the state’s military doctrine and the strategy of military interventions. Probably, there is a scenario under which Thailand could retain monarchy and apply more democratic forms of governing. Only then Thailand can transform into a more democratic state. The world community, in its turn, should probably promote and encourage gradual and steady development of Thai economy and policies. This, however, does not the world community’s being a proponent of progress for the sake of progress itself. Progress is needed for the better living of people in the world that is constantly changing.


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