Thailand's policy vacuum: Land use planning as sites of negotiation and contestation

Pakamas Thinphanga*, Richard Morris Friend

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on the case of Thailand, this paper provides a fresh critical perspective on the purpose and practice of land use planning in the Global South. Thailand is going through a period of rapid urbanisation. Significantly such urban change is occurring most intensely in locations in which land use plans are several years out of date. From urban planning theory, the strategic zoning of land for different uses is widely acknowledged as the cornerstone of urban governance. Yet how such planning takes place, and the economic and political role and value that land itself plays is often overlooked. Through analyses of institutional structures and functions and key land use policy documents, supported with case studies of land contestation, the paper argues that the practice of land use planning opens grey space for negotiation and speculation and thereby accumulation of political power. In practice, the complicated process of planning and approval creates a vacuum period through which imple- mentation is shaped by discretionary powers. The use of discretionary power is increasingly routinised, creating new arenas of negotiation and power. However, such formalised discretionary systems in planning and decision- making reaffirm the symbolic authority of planning agencies who produce plans that are not implemented, or necessarily intended to be implemented.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106994
Number of pages11
JournalLand Use Policy
Early online date3 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • Land use planning
  • Urbanisation
  • Land
  • Global South
  • Planning theory
  • Thailand

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