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The Policing of Anti-government Protests: Thailand’s 2013–2014 Demonstrations and a Crisis of Police Legitimacy

Janjira Sombatpoonsiri

Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, 2017, vol. 4, issue 1, 95-122

Abstract: Street interactions between the police and protesters can serve as a barometer of state–society conflict. This article seeks to examine the way in which the police respond to anti-government protests, and how these responses influence the politics of legitimacy at stake. Through the examination of protest policing in Thailand’s decade-long political conflicts, which reached the zenith in 2013–2014, I will show that police responses to these protests were a mixture of three approaches: accommodative, restrictive and hands-off. At least four factors influenced the interplay of these methods: (i) the police’s tactical improvement, which however faces structural challenges; (ii) a history of police politicization; (iii) extreme characteristics of the protests; and (iv) the nature of conflict over governmental legitimacy contributing to public mistrust in the police. The Thai case illustrates that handling anti-government protests necessitates political sensitivity and creativity. Otherwise, the government and especially the police can run the risk of further damaging public trust and institutional legitimacy.

Keywords: Protest; police; legitimacy; trust; conflict; Thailand (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/2347797016689224

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