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Message to the Dao Din Students

Dear Dao Din Students,

My name is John Draper and I am also from KKU. I would like to ask you a question about how you see autonomy. Maybe you could blog your answer on Prachatai so that we can discuss this in public in both Thai and English? I think it is important to discuss some of these ‘big ideas’ in public so that NGOs are not ignored and so that we are ready to present a sophisticated political solution – when the military lets us, of course ;<).

I understand that the military regime has asked you to work on your philosophy, ideology, and principles. So, what I - and tens of thousands of other people - are interested in is what framework are you using for autonomy? I understand autonomy to mean the right of a citizen or group of citizens with equal entitlements to exercise self-determination through the democratic process via public laws to encourage democracy. In particular, it implies decentralizing power in favor of limited self-determination by villages, cities, provinces, and regions.

In particular, because you are law students, I am interested in how your concept of autonomy can be used to specify new or amended public laws. My favorite way of describing democratic public law is by Held (1995, pp.192-193):

Sites of Power and Types of Rights

Sites of Power

Categories of rights

Examples of rights

Particular domain of action which right helps empower

1 Body


(i) Physical and emotional wellbeing

Pursuit of bodily needs and pleasures


(ii) Clean, non-toxic, sustainable environment

Physical continuity


(iii) Control over fertility

Biological reproduction; freedom to be or not to be a parent

2 Welfare


(i) Universal childcare

(ii) Universal education

(iii) Community services

Development of abilities and talents

3 Culture


(i) Freedom of thought and faith

(ii) Freedom of expression and criticism

(iii) Toleration

Pursuit of symbolic orders and modes of discourse

4 Civic associations


(i) Ability to form or join autonomous associations

(ii) Active membership of civic associations

(iii) Freedom of information

Individual and group projects

5 Economy


(i) Guaranteed minimum income

(ii) Diverse forms of consumption and productive property

(iii) Access avenues to productive and financial resources

Ability to pursue economic activity without immediate financial vulnerability

6 Coercive relations and organized violence


(i) Peaceful coexistence

(ii) Lawful foreign policy

(iii) Accountability of political leaders for crimes, civil or criminal

Physical security and non-coercive relations

7 Legal and regulatory institutions


(i) Due process and equal treatment before the law

(ii) Adequate and equal opportunities for deliberation

Participation in public agenda-setting, debate and electoral politics


I believe this framework for autonomy already provides a framework for the New Democracy Movement’s calls for democracy, justice, human rights, people participation and peace. However, how do you see public law?


John Draper


Held, D. (1995). Democracy and the global order: From the modern state to cosmopolitan democracy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.