The conventional views of road construction in late developing countries are not very positive. Scholars of provincial Thai politics, in particular, dismiss road-building projects as dirty pork-barrel politics. Using the case of Suphanburi Province, this essay argues that roads can constitute sources of collective prestige and pride. Suphanburi was once a remote province, and Suphanburians spoke pitifully of its backwardness. At present, however, Suphanburi boasts many roads of unmatched quality, thanks to massive road construction projects that Banharn Silpa-archa, Suphanburi's member of Parliament (1976–present), has channeled from the central state. In a global context that attaches a social stigma to backwardness, the appearance of these roads symbolizes Suphanburi's “modernity,” which non-Suphanburians admire, envy, and resent. Consequently, Suphanburians have come to take immense pride in their province. To understand why Banharn commands fervent local-level support, we must understand how he has transformed Suphanburians' social identity.

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