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When will the Farmers Unite? The Long Road to Democracy in Rural Thailand

Lindberg, Staffan LU (2004) In The Indian Journal of Labour Economics 47(3). p.525-539
Abstract
Since the mid 1960s sugar planters in Thailand have formed some of the strongest farmers associations in Asia. Organising practically all sugar planters, these associations have over the years successfully negotiated with sugar mill owners and with the state. They have achieved a system of revenue sharing in the cane and sugar industry which protects them from the vagaries of fluctuations in world market prices. A similar development now seems to take place among rubber planters who, like most farmers in Thailand, were earlier controlled by the government system of farmer organisations. This development is in sharp contrast to the situation of the rice farmers, whose earlier attempts at organising was violently repressed, and who are... (More)
Since the mid 1960s sugar planters in Thailand have formed some of the strongest farmers associations in Asia. Organising practically all sugar planters, these associations have over the years successfully negotiated with sugar mill owners and with the state. They have achieved a system of revenue sharing in the cane and sugar industry which protects them from the vagaries of fluctuations in world market prices. A similar development now seems to take place among rubber planters who, like most farmers in Thailand, were earlier controlled by the government system of farmer organisations. This development is in sharp contrast to the situation of the rice farmers, whose earlier attempts at organising was violently repressed, and who are hardly organised today.

Why is it that some of these movements succeeded while others failed? The paper discusses recent movements and organisational changes among Thai farmers in the central plains. Not long ago they were small scale peasants on an expanding land frontier in an authoritarian Buddhist kingdom which after the 1932 revolution turned into military rule. However, after WWII state lead economic development and economic differentiation among the peasantry as well as dramatic political changes have created both economic and political opportunities to organise in various ways but with very different outcomes. The explanation seems to lie both in the kind of farmers recruited, the active agents of mobilization, the ideology and the issues fought, and the way the farmers interacted with the state and other actors at various points in time.

Today there seems to be a certain space and potential for the formation of both general as well as crop- and issue- specific farmers associations which can bargain with the state and agro business for collective benefits. This is an indication that the Thai political process is not merely dominated by rent seeking government officials and businessmen turned politicians who buy the votes of the electorate and run the country in the interest of their companies. Indeed, farmers, like all others, are heavily involved in this type of ‘business politics’, but behind that simplified picture a more complex and perhaps more flexible state may be hidden, which as popular mobilisations unfold may emerge into the open. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Farmers movements, sugar cane, rubber, rice, sociology, political development, sociologi
in
The Indian Journal of Labour Economics
volume
47
issue
3
pages
525 - 539
publisher
The Indian Society of Labour Economics
external identifiers
  • scopus:14944361375
ISSN
0971-7927
project
Farmers Movements and Organisations
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
a02e8911-c6d7-4c5c-bf14-93e40c0ab709 (old id 629995)
date added to LUP
2007-12-03 14:06:07
date last changed
2017-01-01 06:42:59
@article{a02e8911-c6d7-4c5c-bf14-93e40c0ab709,
  abstract     = {Since the mid 1960s sugar planters in Thailand have formed some of the strongest farmers associations in Asia. Organising practically all sugar planters, these associations have over the years successfully negotiated with sugar mill owners and with the state. They have achieved a system of revenue sharing in the cane and sugar industry which protects them from the vagaries of fluctuations in world market prices. A similar development now seems to take place among rubber planters who, like most farmers in Thailand, were earlier controlled by the government system of farmer organisations. This development is in sharp contrast to the situation of the rice farmers, whose earlier attempts at organising was violently repressed, and who are hardly organised today.<br/><br>
	Why is it that some of these movements succeeded while others failed? The paper discusses recent movements and organisational changes among Thai farmers in the central plains. Not long ago they were small scale peasants on an expanding land frontier in an authoritarian Buddhist kingdom which after the 1932 revolution turned into military rule. However, after WWII state lead economic development and economic differentiation among the peasantry as well as dramatic political changes have created both economic and political opportunities to organise in various ways but with very different outcomes. The explanation seems to lie both in the kind of farmers recruited, the active agents of mobilization, the ideology and the issues fought, and the way the farmers interacted with the state and other actors at various points in time.<br/><br>
	Today there seems to be a certain space and potential for the formation of both general as well as crop- and issue- specific farmers associations which can bargain with the state and agro business for collective benefits. This is an indication that the Thai political process is not merely dominated by rent seeking government officials and businessmen turned politicians who buy the votes of the electorate and run the country in the interest of their companies. Indeed, farmers, like all others, are heavily involved in this type of ‘business politics’, but behind that simplified picture a more complex and perhaps more flexible state may be hidden, which as popular mobilisations unfold may emerge into the open.},
  author       = {Lindberg, Staffan},
  issn         = {0971-7927},
  keyword      = {Farmers movements,sugar cane,rubber,rice,sociology,political development,sociologi},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {525--539},
  publisher    = {The Indian Society of Labour Economics},
  series       = {The Indian Journal of Labour Economics},
  title        = {When will the Farmers Unite? The Long Road to Democracy in Rural Thailand},
  volume       = {47},
  year         = {2004},
}