Assembly of the Poor in Thailand, The: From Local Struggles to National Protest Movementby Bruce D. Missingham
On 25 January 1997, a coalition of rural villagers and urban slum dwellers from every region of Thailand commenced a mass demonstration in front of Government House in Bangkok. This became a defining moment in the struggle of the Assembly of the Poor to mobilize and sustain people in their nonviolent attempt to force the government to address their grievances, many of which involved large-scale development projects that adversely affected their communities. Over twenty-five thousand people joined the rally, refusing to move until the government responded to their petition. In the end, the rally became a extended, ninety-nine-day encampment in the heart of the city.
This book chronicles the development of a national protest movement, analyzing its origins, strategies, and goals within the context of a growing democratic and civil society. Using an anthropological approach, Bruce Missingham bases his research on ethnographic fieldwork among the men and women who participate in the Assembly, including a broad spectrum of villagers, village leaders, and NGO activists. He explores the processes underlying mass mobilization and the social construction of protest, discusses the contradictions and conflicts that have arisen, and considers the degree of participation and democracy within the grassroots movement. Finally, he describes the Assembly's campaigns and changing fortunes following the Thai economic crisis in mid-1997 and looks at the results of its sustained protest activities.