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Understanding Development in Thailand: An Ethnographic Study of Local Perspectives and Experiences

Buamai, Thaenphan Senaphan


Thaenphan Senaphan Buamai


Julia Holdsworth

Vassos Argyrou


This thesis establishes a contextual understanding of development in Thailand through the lens of local perspectives and experiences. The study approach involves using a post development critique and critical ethnography to identify local ideas for social progress which have been otherwise lost in the noise of mainstream developmental discourse. Thus, this study makes room for previously neglected alternative local ideas, perhaps couched in different forms, notably emanating from indigenous cultural accounts and the global discourse surrounding mainstream development. Using the displacement of the Pwo-Karen villagers by the construction of The Khao Laem Dam as the study background, the ethnographer examined their Pwo-Karen ideas of reciprocal cooperation for the common good and explored its contributions. This research uncovered conflict across several aspects between Pwo-Karen’s ideas for social progress and mainstream developmental discourse.
The discourse analysis of literature and reports from the mainstream development agencies in this thesis explore how liberalist development discourse is produced and may be infiltrated. Specifically, the study revealed The Technical Capability Approach (TCA) to establish controllable methods of problem solving in the projection and documentation of mainstream development projects. The revelations of The TCA allude to a subjectivist form of alleged backwardness and identified needs that should be addressed. Thus, backwardness could be read as regression, in which mainstream development projects needed to be made to regulate the perceived liberalist development discourse. Developers and their allies in the government were able to use euphemistic documentation discursively to bolster or else manipulate those affected. Moreover, the villagers were subjected to state surveillance and control. On the ground, they were manipulated by various bureaucratic and authoritarian procedures during the development process. Some conceded, whether willingly or otherwise, partnering with the state, while others put up visceral or overt resistance.
The thesis also addresses issues of life conditions, precarity, opportunity, power and resistance as resources for self construction and positioning among the involved parties, and the discussion employs critical consideration of cross cultural positionality in order to understand them. This research reflects the fact that such variations resulted in differing worldviews, aspirations, practices, and expressions of ideas about social progress. Further, it deals with the regaining of balance and critical comprehension of multiparty politics, particularly in relation to indigenous practicality and the global discourse surrounding mainstream development. Lastly, the proposals that this thesis offers have implications for policymakers. Crafting efficient development policies should be performed while paying careful attention to development disparities and tensions, especially those relating to differences in contextual conditions, power resources and self positioning among the engaged parties.


Buamai, . S. (2024). Understanding Development in Thailand: An Ethnographic Study of Local Perspectives and Experiences. (Thesis). University of Hull.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 10, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jun 12, 2024
Keywords Sociology and social anthropology
Public URL
Additional Information School of Criminology, Sociology and Policing
University of Hull
Award Date Apr 16, 2024


Thesis (37.6 Mb)

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© 2024 Thaenphan Senaphan Buamai. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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