Vote Buying: Situating Agency in the Politics of Negotiating Identity

Main Article Content

Chaipong Samnieng


Profound changes in Thai socio-economy have brought about a “rural middle class” who are politically enthusiastic. These people have become increasingly interested in political participation through elections because of its significance to direct public policies which affect their lives. As a consequence, those middle classes have entered the political sphere as enthusiastic political agencies, particularly in local politics which offers newcomers unlimited access under diverse relationships. Local elections have become an apparatus deployed by the people to generate a space where they can rearrange their relationship with the state. Simultaneously, elections have provided an opportunity for newcomers to constantly access the political space.

Nevertheless, the image of rural areas is still represented by the myth of vote buying. In that myth, the votes are assimilated with the goods available in the market and the voters are regarded as only docile agents. In fact, elections and vote buying are too perplexing to be simply understood as an exchange under the market system. Unfortunately, mainstream political studies usually concentrate on structural and institutional politics without considering the political dynamics of political agencies. This results in those studies lacking multidimensional consideration. In addition, such indifference leads to the myth and the binary trap, which cannot comprehensively explain the political phenomenon. In consequence, taking account of the daily practice of individuals in order to negotiate against the definition, emotions and political consciousness could pave a way to understand the relationship of power in depth.

Article Details

How to Cite
Samnieng, C. (2018). Vote Buying: Situating Agency in the Politics of Negotiating Identity. Political Science and Public Administration Journal, 9(2), 1–48. Retrieved from
Research Article


Arghiros, D. (2001). Democracy, Development and Decentralization in Provincial Thailand. Richmond: Curzon Connors.

Barney, K. (2008). China and the Production of Forestlands in Lao PDR: A Political Ecology of Transnational Enclosure. In Nevins J., & Peluso N. L. (Eds.). Taking Southeast Asia to Market. New York: Cornell University Press.

Barth, F. (1968). Capital, Investment and the Social Structure of a Pastoral Nomad Group in South Persia. In Leclair, E. E., & Schneider, H. K. (Eds.). Economic Anthropology: Readings in Theory and Analysis. New York: Rinehart and Winston.

Benson, R. (1999). Field Theory in Comparative Context: A New Paradigm for Media Studies. Theory and Society, 28(3), 463-498.

Biggs, D. (2008). Water Power: Machines, Modernizers, and Meta-Commoditization on the Mekong River. In Nevins, J., & Peluso, N. L. (Eds.). Taking Southeast Asia to Market: commodities, nature, and people in the neoliberal age. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

_______. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

_______. (1993). The Field of cultural production: essays on art and literature. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bowie, K. (1988). Peasant perspectives on the political economy of the northern Thai Kingdom of Chiang Mai in the nineteenth century: implication for the understanding of peasant political expression. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago.

_______. (2012). Kān sư̄ sīang læ khwām dư̄atdān khō̜ng mūbān nai kānlư̄ak tang thī phāk nư̄a khō̜ng Thai: kanpatirū kotmāi nai bō̜ribot thāng prawattisāt [Vote buying and anger of villagers during an election in the North of Thailand: legal reformation in historical context]. In Kongkirati, P. (Ed.). Kānmư̄ang wādūai kānlư̄ak tang: wāt kam ʻamnāt læ phonlawat chonnabot Thai [Politics of election: discourse, power, and dynamics of rural Thai society]. Nonthaburi: Fa Diaokan.

Chiangthong, J., Sugunnasil, W., Rakchat J., Meesaeng, S., & Jaipinta, P. (2011). Chonnabot Thai: kasēttrakō̜n radap klāng læ rǣngngān rai thīdin [Rural Thailand: mid-level farmers and landless workers]. Chiang Mai: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.

Dahl, R. A. (1961). A Who governs?: democracy and power in an American city. New Haven: Yale University Press.

De Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

De Tocqueville. (1994). Democracy in America. London: David Campbell.

Eoseewong, N. (1998). Watthanatham khwām čhon [Culture of poverty]. Bangkok: Phraeo.

_______. (2009). Rāk yā sāng bān chon chan klāng sāng mư̄ang [Grassroots make homes, the middle-classes make city]. Bangkok: matichon.

_______. (2011). Bīa lai khun [Subordinates are chasing dominants]. Bangkok: Matichon.

Feungfusakul, A. (2003). Kān thopthūan thritsadī læ krō̜p nǣokhit [Identity: review of theories and conceptual framework]. Bangkok: National Research Council of Thailand on Sociology, National Research Council of Thailand.

Ganjanapan, A. (1989). Conflicts over the deployment and control of labor in a northern Thai village. In Hart, G., Turton, A., & White, B. (Eds.). Agrarian Transformations: Local Processes and the State in Southeast Asia. (pp. 98-124). Berkeley: University of California Press.

_______. (2006). watthanatham thāng sētthakit nai sētthakit rai watthanatham [Economic culture in economy without culture]. Bangkok: Khopfai.

_______. (2011). Kān prap khrōngsāng chonnabot Thai kap panhā thī mō̜ng mai hen [Structural readjustment of Thai rural society and invisible problems] speech for 60th Economics Thammasat. Bangkok: Open Books.

_______. (2012). Čhaothī læ phī pū yā phonlawat khō̜ng khwāmrū chāobān ʻamnāt læ tūa ton khō̜ng khon thō̜ngthin [Guardian spirits, ancestor spirits, power and self of local people]. Chiang Mai: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.

_______. (2015). Kamkưt kampāk ngānwičhai watthanatham phāk nư̄a [the way of thinking, the way of saying, researches on Northern culture]. Chiang Mai: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.

Ganjanapan, A., & Hirsch, P. (2010). Transforming agrarian transformations in a globalizing Thailand. In Tapp, N., & Hirsch, P. (Eds.). Culture, Power and Ritual Practice: Reflections on the Anthropology of Thailand through the Work of Andrew Turton. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press.

Haberkorn, T. (2007). States of transgression: politics, violence, and agrarian transformation in Northern Thailand. New York: Faculty of the Graduate School, Cornell University.

Hart, G. (1998). Multiple trajectories: a critique of industrial restructuring and the new institutionalism. Antipode, 30(4), 333-356.

Harvey, D. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hewison, K. (1989). Bankers and bureaucrats: capital and the role of the state in Thailand. New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, Yale Center for International and Area Studies.

Hirai, K. (2002). Exhibition of Power Factory Woman’s Use of the Housewarming Ceremony in a Northern Thai Village. In Tanabe S., & Keyes, C. F. (Eds.). Cultural crisis and social memory: modernity and identity in Thailand and Laos. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Isranews. (2013). Ngœ̄n pen patčhai samkhan chīkhāt phonkān lư̄aktang sō̜ng Kumphāphan sō̜ngphanhārō̜ihāsipčhet dai čhing rư̄? [Is money the absolutely essential factor to manipulate the election results on February 2, 2014?] Retrieved December 10, 2014, from

Kerkvliet, B. (2005). The Power of everyday politics: how Vietnamese peasants transformed national policy Imprint Ithaca. New York: Cornell University Press.

Keyes, C. (2010, May). “Cosmopolinta” Villagers and Populist Democracy in Thailand. In Conference on “Revisiting Agrarian Transformations in Southeast Asia”, Chiang Mai.

_______. (2014). Finding their voice: Northeastern villagers and the Thai state. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.

Kitiarsa, P. (2014). Sū withī ʻĪsān mai [Into a new way of Isan]. Bangkok: Wiphasa.

Kongkirati, P. (Ed.). (2012). Kānmư̄ang wādūai kānlư̄ak tang: wāt kam ʻamnāt læ phonlawat chonnabot Thai [Politics of election: discourse, power, and dynamics of rural Thai society]. Bangkok: Fa Diaokan.

Laothamatas, A. (1993). “Mo̜p mư̄thư̄”: chon chan klāng læ nakthurakit kap phatthanākān prachāthipatai [Mobile phone mop, the middle-classes and businesspersons in democratic development]. Bangkok: Matichon.

_______. (2006). Thaksinā - prachā niyom [Thaksin and popularism]. Bangkok: Matichon.

_______. (2009a). Apiwat thō̜ngthin: samrūat thritsadī kānmư̄ang phư̄a sāng thō̜ngthin hai pen thān mai khō̜ng prachāthipatai [developed community: a survey on theories to make community a new base of democracy]. Bangkok: Thai Health Promotion Foundation.

_______. (2009b). Sō̜ngnokrā prachāthipatai [Two democracies in Thailand]. Bangkok: Khopfai.

Laungaramsri, P. (Ed.). (2013). Kamnœ̄t læ phatthanākān sư̄a dǣng nai Chīang Mai [Becoming red: genesis and development of the Red shirts in Chiang Mai]. Chiang Mai: Center for Research and Academic Service, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.

Mauss, M. (1989). The Gift: the form and reason for exchange in archaic societies. London: Routledge.

Mukdawijitra, Y. (2012). Ngœ̄n mai chai patčhai chīkhāt kānlư̄ak tang: mānutsayawitthayā kānmư̄ang khō̜ng kān sư̄ sīang [money is not the absolutely essential factor in election: anthropology of the politics of vote buying]. In Panyagaew, W. (Ed.). Kānmư̄ang khō̜ng rātsadō̜n Thai yuk lang (lang) thaksin: rūam botkhwām wādūai rư̄ang chon channam kānlư̄ak tang phū mī ʻitthiphon khon sư̄a dǣng læ prachāthipatai 100% [The politics of Thai people after (after) Thaksin’s period: collected papers on elite, election, influential people, the Red shirts, and democracy 100%]. (pp. 29-50). Chiang Mai: Sapan Project-CMU and Center for Research and Academic Service, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.

_______. (2013). Watthanatham tō̜tān [Culture of resistance]. Bangkok: Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Center.

Nasee, P., & Samnieng, C. (2013). Kānlư̄ak tang: kānsāng khrư̄akhāi læ sāiyai khwāmsamphan nai kānmư̄ang radap thō̜ngthin [Election: network building and the web of relationships in local politics in Thailand]. King Prajadhipok’s Institute Journal, 11(3), 77-109.

Nishizaki, Y. (2011). Political Authority and Provincial Identity in Thailand: The Making of Banharn-Buri. New York: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University.

Ockey, J. (2004). Making democracy: leadership, class, gender, and political participation in Thailand. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Phongpaichit, P., & Baker, C. (2013). Vote-buying claims nothing but dangerous Nonsense. Bangkok Post, Retrieved 5 November, 2016, from

Polanyi, K. (1957). The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Boston: Beacon Press.

Policy and Planning Office, The Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Thailand. (1992). Kān sư̄ sīang lư̄aktang thī penʻan trā yatō̜ khwāmmankhong khō̜ng chāt bot samrūat ʻēkkasān: rāingān phonkān sưksā wičhai bư̄angton [Vote buying that threatens security of the nation, literature review: report of a basic research]. Bangkok: The Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Pongsapich, A., & Kuwinpant, P. (Eds). (1996). rabop ʻuppatham [Patronage system]. Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Press.

Rabibhadana, A. (M.R.). (1984). Sangkhom Thai nai samai ton krung Rattanakōsin Phō̜.Sō̜. 2325-2416 [The Organization of Thai Society in the Early Bangkok Period 1782-1873]. Bangkok: The Foundation for the Promotion of Humanities and Social Sciences Textbooks Project.

Samnieng, C. (2016). Kānmư̄ang thō̜ngthin saha samphan khō̜ng khwāmsamphan lāi radap [Local politics correlation of the multileveled relationships]. Political Science and Public Administration. Journal Chiang Mai University, 7(1), 106-137.

Samnieng, C., & Nasee, P. (2014a). Phonlawat kānkān pokkhrō̜ng sūan thō̜ngthin Thai: kap kān khayāi phư̄nthī thāngkān mư̄ang khō̜ng prachāchon [Dynamics of local administration in Thailand: and the expansion of political space of people]. Humanities and Social Sciences Review Lampang Rajabhat University, 2(1), 3-46.

_______. (2014b). Prawattisāt kānphatthanā phāk nư̄a čhāk thāng rotfai sū kān yǣngching sapphayākō̜n [History of development in northern region: from the railway to the contestation of resources]. Art and Culture, 35(7), 146-169.

Sangkamanee, J. (2012). Khrongkan wichai chumchon hǣng nan chư̄ prātthana: watthanatham kānmư̄ang nai chīwit pra wan kap khrư̄akhāi khwāmsamphan nai kānphatthanā thō̜ngthin [Research project: that community is named desire: political culture in everyday life and network of relationships in local development]. Bangkok: Thai Universities for Healthy Public Policies and Thai Health Promotion Foundation.

Santasombat, Y. (1992). Mǣ ying sikhā yō̜ tūa: chumchon læ kānkhā prawēnī nai sangkhom Thai [Why do women become sex workers: community and prostitution in Thai society]. Bangkok: Local Development Institute.

_______. (2003). Phonlawat læ khwām yư̄tyun khō̜ng sangkhom chāo nā: sētthakit chumchon phāk nư̄a læ kān prap krabūan that wādūai chumchon nai prathēt lōk thī sām [Flexible peasants: reconceptualizing the third world’s rural types]. Chiang Mai: Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge Studies Center for Research and Sustainable development, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.

_______. (2008). Flexible Peasants: Reconceptualizing the Third World’s Rural Types. Chiang Mai: Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University.

Satitniramai. A. (2013). Thopthuan phumithat kanmueang Thai [Review of Thai political landscape]. Chiang Mai: Thai Universities for Healthy Public Policies, Public Policy Studies Institute, Chiang Mai University.

Satitniramai A., Mukdawijitra, Y., & Pawakapan, N. (2013). Thopthūan phūm that kānmư̄ang Thai [Re-examining the Political Landscape of Thailand]. Chiang Mai: Thai Universities for Healthy Public Policies, Public Policy Studies Institute, Chiang Mai University.

Sawasdee, S. N. (2012, November). Aphiprai wichakan "Phonlawat ong khwamru lae maya khati wa duai kanlueaktang lae chonnabot Thai" [Academic discussion “dynamics of knowledge and discourse on election and rural Thai society] November 19, 2012, 13.00-16.30 at R. 202 (Phaya Sunthonphiphit Room), Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University in association with Fa Diaokan Publishing.

Scott, J. C. (1985). Weapons of the weak: everyday forms of peasant resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Tamada, Y. (1994). ‘Itthiphon’ læ ‘amnāt’: kānmư̄ang Thai dān thī mai pen thāngkān [‘Influence’ and ‘power’: Thai politics on an unofficial side]. The Journal of Political Science, Thammasat University, 19(2), 75-96.

Turton, A. (1976). “Northern Thai Peasant Society: Twentieth Century Transformations in Political and Jural Structures”. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 3(3), 267-298.

Unno, A., & Bundhuwong, C. (2012). Chīwit thāngkān mư̄ang khō̜ng chāo Thai nai sathānakān khwāmkhatyǣng thāngkān mư̄ang rūamsamai [political life of people in southern region under the political conflicts in contemporary period] (Research report). Bangkok: Thai Universities for Healthy Public Policies and Thai Health Promotion Foundation.

Walker, A. (2008). The rural constitution and the everyday politics of elections in northern Thailand. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 38(1), 84-105.

_______. (2012). Thailand's political peasants: power in the modern rural economy Madison. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.