Legitimacy, Counterinsurgency, and Order 66/2523

Matt Wheeler





The "political offensive" against Communist insurgency codified in Prime Ministerial Order 66/2523 (1980) shaped the institutions and practices that maintained relative peace in the southernmost rovinces of Thailand during the 1980s and 1990s. This article traces the intellectual roots of Thai counterinsurgency and its relationship to political legitimacy, focusing on writings by General Han Linanon, one of Order 66/2523's reputed authors. Classical counterinsurgency theory posits political legitimacy as the outcome of security, development and sound administration. The contemporary insurgency indicates a need to reassess assumptions of classical counterinsurgency which developed in response to the challenges of modernization. This article suggests that the state's failure to maintain sufficient legitimacy in southernmost Thailand in order to prevent a reinvigorated insurgency results from problems inherent in the "hearts-and-minds" conception of counterinsurgency, which posits legitimacy as the effect of, rather than precondition for, effective administration, security, and development. In particular, the conflation of "good governance" with popular participation, and democracy with popular sovereignty, has implications for security in southern Thailand and political stability in the broader Thai polity.


(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 2/2009, Page 193-225)


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