Professor Harding Discusses Asia at Sydney Law School

Andrew Harding, director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, discusses Thailand's coup and constitutional crisis at a Distinguished Speakers lecture at the Sydney Law School on June 18, 2014.

At the lecture, Professor Harding shares that hopes for stable and democratic government in Thailand remains dim until competing factions put aside differences and respect its constitution. The leading expert on Asian law said: "Ever since Thaksin Shinawatra's premiership, especially from 2005 until now, Thailand has been increasingly polarised between the red and yellow factions."

"Both of these movements are very complex in their make-up, but the rift represents amongst other things a divide between the largely rural farmer population north and east of Thailand, and the more middle-class population of central and southern Thailand," he says.

Anti-government protests in October 2013 led to the invalidation of February's general election result by the Constitutional Court, and recently, it dismissed Yingluck Shinawatra (Thaksin's sister) as Prime Minister. A military junta has since seized power, imposed curfews and silenced its critics, as Thailand fell victim to its twelfth coup since the absolute monarchy ended in 1932.

Professor Harding says the country's current unrest will only abate when Thai citizens and intellectuals stand up for democratic principles, irrespective of factional interests.

"They need to reject rabble-rousing, corruption, illegal behaviour, and militarism; and insist on developing and supporting the institutions that have been created to ensure democracy and accountability. These in turn need to behave in a principled and politically neutral way and be seen to do so,” he shares.

Professor Harding further adds: "Reconciliation will be a long job. It needs to start now. Military rule may well make things worse rather than better. I am worried what the red faction will do now they have been turned out of power five times in eight years. The constitutional system has broken down."

Professor Andrew Harding is a leading scholar in the fields of Asian legal studies and comparative constitutional law. He joined NUS, as Director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies and Director of the Asian Law Institute, from the University of Victoria, BC Canada, where he was Professor of Asia-Pacific Legal Relations and Director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives. Professor Harding has worked extensively on constitutional law in Malaysia and Thailand, and has made extensive contributions to scholarship in comparative law, and law and development, having published nine books as author or editor. He is co-founding-editor of Hart Publishing's book series Constitutional Systems of the World, a major resource for constitutional law in context, and has authored the books on Malaysia and Thailand in that series.

Information from Sydney Law School,