The powerful Thai politician and former prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa has been disparaged as a corrupt operator who for years channeled excessive state funds into developing his own rural province. This study reinterprets Banharn’s career and offers a detailed portrait of the voters who support him. Relying on extensive interviews, the author shows how Banharn’s constituents have developed a strong provincial identity based on their pride in his advancement of their province, Suphanburi, which many now call “Banharn-buri” … the place of Banharn. The analysis challenges simplistic perceptions of rural Thai voters and raises vital questions about contemporary democracy in Thailand.
“Here is the story of Banharn Silpa-archa, the former PM and arch-electocrat of Thai politics, told by a scholar whose extensive field research and critical sympathy have enabled him to capture the complexity of Banharn’s talents and enduring reign. As Nishizaki demonstrates, Banharn’s success in the province of Suphanburi (aka Banharn-buri) was not built on a sleazy mix of guns, goons, and gold, but constructed through careful cultivation of a proud provincial identity and the targeted reallocation of state resources. This study by a political anthropologist attuned to the voices of Banharn’s rural constituents challenges all facile put-downs of Thai provincial voters as duped country bumpkins and charts a new direction for Thai political analysis.”
— Kasian Tejapira, Thammasat University, author of Commodifying Marxism: The Formation of Modern Thai Radical Culture, 1927–1958
“The volume is superbly and inventively researched. It artfully tells a fascinating story. It is cleverly and engagingly argued. It draws on formidable language skills. … Nishizaki frames his case with great care and even greater insight … [and] with humor, meticulousness, and ethnographic skill …”
—Michael Montesano, New Mandala
Yoshinori Nishizaki, who earned his PhD at the University of Washington–Seattle, is an assistant professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore and formerly was a research fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change at the Australian National University. His research interests include democratization, electoral politics, and state–society relations in Thailand.