Fighting for Virtue
Justice and Politics in Thailand
Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University
Published by: Cornell University Press
282 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 12 b&w photos, 1 b&w line drawing
- ISBN: 9780801449994
- Published: January 2020
Fighting for Virtue investigates how Thailand's judges were tasked by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) in 2006 with helping to solve the country's intractable political problems—and what happened next. Across the last decade of Rama IX's rule, Duncan McCargo examines the world of Thai judges: how they were recruited, trained, and promoted, and how they were socialized into a conservative world view that emphasized the proximity between the judiciary and the monarchy.
McCargo delves into three pivotal freedom of expression cases that illuminate Thai legal and cultural understandings of sedition and treason, before examining the ways in which accusations of disloyalty made against controversial former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra came to occupy a central place in the political life of a deeply polarized nation. The author navigates the highly contentious role of the Constitutional Court as a key player in overseeing and regulating Thailand's political order before concluding with reflections on the significance of the Bhumibol era of "judicialization" in Thailand. In the end, posits McCargo, under a new king, who appears far less reluctant to assert his own power and authority, the Thai courts may now assume somewhat less significance as a tool of the monarchical network.
Introduction: Legalism and Revival of Treason
1. Privileged Caste?
2. Bench and Throne
3. Challenges to the Judiciary
4. Against the Crown?
5. Computer Compassings
6. Against the State
7. Crimes of Thaksin
8. Courting Constitutionalism
Conclusion: The Trouble Is Politics
"This is an original, heavily researched, fascinating, highly readable, and ultimately frightening book."~Bangkok Post
"Fighting for Virtue makes an original contribution to critical debates about the rule of law in Southeast Asia. It will be an essential point of reference for anyone interested in understanding the morbid politics of the final decade of King Bhumibol's reign. For both these reasons, it deserves to be read widely."~Contemporary Southeast Asia
"Duncan McCargo has tackled yet another fascinating aspect of Thailand's politics in Fighting for Virtue. McCargo treats the reader to an abundance of details, thoughtful analysis, and savvy observation. Overall, this book is an important contribution that will be cited for years to come."~Pacific Affairs
"Fighting for Virtue is a compelling text that portrays the dynamics of a complicated judiciary, a central player in the fractious political landscape of contemporary Thailand. It is highly recommended to readers of political anthropology, legal studies, history, political science and Southeast Asian studies."~The London School of Economics and Political Science