KHON KAEN – The results in many Bangkok-based polls since the coup in May display a Bangkok-centric bias or they rapturously praise the work of the military junta. The Bangkok-based pollsters also say they have surveyed people nationwide but do not provide any details to back up the claim.
On October 1 and 3, The Isaan Record surveyed the opinions of 483 people. Respondents come from a variety of occupations, educational backgrounds, and ages and 92% self-identified as Northeasterners. The survey was conducted by university students in Khon Kaen.
The Coup, Human Rights, and Elections
Bangkok-based polls have yet to ask the central question as to whether people agreed with the May 22 coup in the first place. Instead, they have focused on the aftermath of the coup. It may be that the junta prohibited asking this question in the name of unity.
It is interesting to note then that the coup itself remains a divisive issue in the Northeast. Almost 29% of those polled agreed with the coup while nearly 45% were against it, with just over 26% of respondents neutral on the issue.
One surprising finding from the survey concerns the present government’s record on human rights. Only 20.04% of those polled thought the military junta did not respect human rights while 43.03% felt it did, and another 36.92% neither agree nor disagree with the statement. This result seems to be in contrast with the view of 39.33% of those polled who felt martial law affected their rights (see below).
If the military government’s main theme in its democracy trainings is to teach people that elections are not a key feature of democracy, it has a lot more work to do. Of the 458 respondents who expressed an opinion one way or another on the matter, 88.43% believe that elections are important.
Another surprising result is that 40.17% of those surveyed felt that Thailand is presently a genuine democracy while even the junta may not make such a claim, arguing instead that the said genuine democracy is awaiting Thailand on some unspecified future date.
Over 40% of respondents felt martial law has had a strong effect on their daily lives, while 21.82% felt it had not. Another 32.63% felt neutral on the matter. When asked whether martial law has had a strong effect on their rights, 41.24% said it had, 20.09% said it had not, and 38.68% were neutral. Interestingly, 50.4% of students felt martial law impacts their rights.
Performance of the Military Government
The military junta might find some solace in knowing that 61.28% of respondents are satisfied or very satisfied with the performance of the government. Only 27.95% are dissatisfied, with another 10.74% neutral or giving no opinion.
However, a 62.05% approval rating on the work of the government is far below the percentages given by many Bangkok polls that place satisfaction with the government at high levels, such as the Dusit Poll conducted in late September which found 92% of respondents satisfied with the government’s performance.
If the goal of the military government was to “dissolve” political loyalties and depoliticize the population, especially in the Northeast, then the survey results perhaps indicate some success.
Only 15.76% of respondents identified themselves as supporting the red shirts and 2.31% the yellow shirts or PDRC (People’s Democratic Reform Council). A little more than 30% said they supported neither, and another 51.89% had no opinion.
Meanwhile, 47.29% said they had voted for the Pheu Thai Party in the last election, 9.98% for the Democrat Party, and 4.12% for other parties. The rest—38.61%—said they supported none of the above.
Will this formula break the hold of the Northeast over electoral democracy and fracture the vote sufficiently in the region to allow appointed bodies to dominate Thai politics?
Demographics of those surveyed:
Occupation: 29.81% described themselves as regularly employed, 26.20% as students, 24.84% as business owners, 5.59% as civil servants, 1.66% as farmers, 8.90% as other, and 5.18% did not specify.
Age: Of those who responded, 9.7% were 17 or younger, 24.6% were between 18 and 24, 17.8% between 25 to 34, 32.7% 35 to 54, and 12.2% were 55 and above.
Urban vs. Rural: A little more than 58% described themselves as urban, 29% as rural, and 14.07% in semi-rural, semi-urban settings.
Region: Of 468 respondents, more than 92% identified themselves as Northeastern, 3.9% as from the Central Region or Bangkok, 3.2% as Northerner, and 0.6% as Southerner.
Education: Almost 16% had a primary education, 37.7% had a high school education, 14.7% had some college, 25.5% had finished university, and 1.9% had graduate degrees, while 4.6% did not respond.