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Owners of the MapMotorcycle Taxi Drivers, Mobility, and Politics in Bangkok$
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Claudio Sopranzetti

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520288492

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520288492.001.0001

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Fighting over the State

Fighting over the State

(p.137) Five Fighting over the State
Owners of the Map

Claudio Sopranzetti

University of California Press

This chapter explores Thaksin Shinawatra’s plan to bring the informal and illicit economy under his government’s control as an attempt to cut off from its profit state officials who used authority (amnāt) to exert influence (itthiphon). Aware that elected governments historically faced significant opposition and resistance from bureaucratic and military forces, Thaksin wanted to take away their financial resources. This, he hoped, would be a first step toward bringing them under his control and establishing his domination over the state. Much like the plans to restructure Bangkok, however, Thaksin’s vision encountered significant resistance, both on the streets and inside the corridors of state offices. His policies triggered a series of processes with spillover effects and unintended consequences. At the street level, the formalization of motorcycle taxis ended up pushing these atomized driver-entrepreneurs to mobilize into a significant collective force, one that initially unified to criticize Thaksin and question his leadership. In the halls of power, Thaksin’s attempt to bring other state forces under his control ended up unifying them in opposition to him, sowing the seeds of his demise. This chapter reconstructs both dynamics—the struggle that ensued during Thaksin’s time in office and the shifting alliances that they generated.

Keywords:   state, Thaksin Shinawatra, struggle, mafia, informal, De Soto, mobilization

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