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Center for Southeast Asian Studies pres.

CSEAS Lecture Series. The Deep Constitution: Militant Constitutional Identity and the Afterlife of Martial Law in Thailand

Eugénie Mérieau, Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for Global Law and Policy, Harvard Law School

In Thailand, since the adoption of the widely-celebrated 1997 Constitution, all elected governments have been overthrown by the Constitutional Court, the military, or both in the name of democracy. By understanding the 1997 Constitution as a fully liberal-democratic constitution breaking with the country’s military past, most of the academic literature overlooked the resilient continuities and interdependence between military and civilian rule that form, under the patronage of the king, the core of Thailand’s constitutional order. Using historical institutional analysis, this paper documents the inner workings of the Thai Deep Constitution, defined as the legal-operational playbook of Thai democracy’s tutelary powers (the “Deep State”) linked to its Constitutional Identity defined as “Democracy with the King as Head of State.”

Beyond the Thai case study, this paper argues that the constitutional model for any tutelary democracy aims to enshrine, in the name of militant democracy, veto powers of the army and the judiciary over electoral politics in the unamendable part of the constitution, conceptualized as the Deep Constitution.

Eugénie Mérieau is currently a visiting postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Global Law and Policy, Harvard Law School. Prior to this, she held academic positions at Sciences Po (France), the University of Göttingen (Germany) and Thammasat University (Thailand). Fluent in Thai, she worked for four years at the King Prajadhipok's Institute under the Thai Parliament as a full-time researcher. Her most recent publications on Thailand have appeared in Asian Journal of Comparative Law, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Southeast Asian Affairs, Buddhism, Law and Society, along more popular venues such as The Atlantic or the New York Times. Her first English-language monograph is forthcoming in 2020 with Hart Publishing under the title "Constitutional Bricolage : Thailand's Sacred King versus the Rule of Law".

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