Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Dr Pechladda Pechpakdee

Community development on the ground: the micro-politics of planning policy in four Thai communities

Photo of Dr Pechladda Pechpakdee

This thesis presents a comparative study of the physical impact of different power relations in Thai rural communities. It is thus an 
analysis of how configurations of power affect planning practice and the built environment. While political scientists study power, and 
planners study the built environment, their precise interaction is under-researched. This thesis seeks to fill this gap.

In general, Thailand's public administration is highly centralised. Escobar has argued that a centralised and inefficient bureaucracy 
remains problematic for local self government, (1995)1. The control of local development by the centralised administrative core follows the mainstream model of development and the hegemonic political and bureaucratic structures that underpin it (Parnwell 2005).2

The discourse of localism is critical of the mainstream development paradigm. This paradigm is much criticised for being unable to achieve the principles of local self government which fit the rural context, addressing local needs and resources. Simultaneously, local ideologies and traditional culture has been excluded from conventional approaches, and some grass-roots developments may be incompatible with the modern planning context. Conventional administration of local development has to provide public services and expensive service delivery drove local administrators to find better ways of providing services, at less cost. A positive trend of classic planning in a rural settlement is to stimulate infrastructure and social service development. Local government implements the policies and completes routine procedures in accordance with local decisions. This is almost a "community steering and bureaucratic rowing" type of public administration (Adams 2004)3.

This research explores the hypothesis that a condition of dependency has arisen: of the rural periphery upon the central administrative core. The core has, therefore, dominated local administration, and it is here argued that we witness this process in the latest institution of local self government, this being the Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO). Hence, this research will show that collective development genuinely based on local needs and resources, diversity and decentralisation is best suited to reducing dependency and achieving sustainability in local development. This study of the impact of power relations on the built environment will thus demonstrate that enhancing local 'power to' - rather than central 'power over' – is indeed the best way to manage the physical resources of a rural community. In this way, the thesis regards the physical planning and resources of rural communities in Thailand as a place of profound political struggle.

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