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Joining the Values Debate: The Peculiar Case of Thailand

SURIN Maisrikrod
Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia
Vol. 14, No. 2, ASIAN WAYS: ASIAN VALUES REVISITED (October 1999), pp. 402-413
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41057003
Page Count: 12
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Joining the Values Debate: The Peculiar Case of Thailand
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Abstract

This article discusses the relationship between the "Asian values" debate and democratic development in Thailand. Although there are beliefs and practices that could be identified as "Thai values" — which share common features with other Asian values — what is more salient in the Thai case is that the debate is not over the unsuitability of liberal democracy to the Thai cultural context but over which set of values, Western or Thai, best promotes civil society and liberal democracy. Western-based democracy is unquestionably accepted as a basis for political legitimacy in Thailand. The "globalizers" see universalism as a major source of democratic development, while the "communitarians" believe such an aspiration could be best realized by going back to Thai cultural roots and values — strong family ties, kinship, and co-operative community spirit — which are anti-state and anti-âuthoritarian in character and hence pro-democracy.

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