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Becoming citizens: Policy feedback and the transformation of the Thai rice farmer

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journal contribution
posted on 30.03.2021, 12:40 by Jacob Isaac RICKSJacob Isaac RICKS, Thanapan LAIPRAKOBSUB

Over the past twenty years, Thailand’s rice farmers have become one of the country’s most important and active political constituencies, a sharp contrast from the previous decades wherein they were treated with neglect or even derision by the Thai political elite. These “political peasants” now actively advocate for and successfully receive extensive subsidies from both authoritarian and democratic governments. What has driven this change? In this essay, we draw on theories of the policy feedback loop wherein policies yield both material and cognitive benefits, which change the political behavior of populations. We argue that the Thaksin Shinawatra government’s (2001-2006) paddy pledging policy altered the mindset of Thai rice farmers, creating a new form of social contract between the rural poor and the state. We demonstrate this by tracing the process through which farmers’ political behavior changed, drawing on a variety of evidence, including electoral data, secondary sources, an original survey, focus groups, and interviews with Thai farmers. The paper provides additional understanding regarding the mechanisms through which Thai politics has changed since 2001. On a broader scale, these findings suggest the potential of public policy to create enduring political communities among rural populations.

Funding

Ministry of Education, Singapore under its Academic Research Funding Tier 1

History

Publication Date

01/12/2020

Journal

Journal of Rural Studies

Volume

81

Pages

1-9

ISSN

0743-0167

School

School of Social Sciences

IRIS ID

131829855

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