KHON KAEN – Despite media reports of a lukewarm public response to the military government’s unusual approach to gather public opinion, more than 1,000 citizens in Khon Kaen Province gave their views on the yet-to-be-announced national elections on Monday.
On Monday, the first day of the initiative, national media reported a total number of 7,012 people who followed Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s televised call to provide responses to what critics have called ‘suggestive questions’.
Several media outlets reported that Kalasin Province recorded the highest number of respondents nationwide with 662 people, followed by 408 people in Saraburi Province and 322 people in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. It was also reported that Yasothon Province counted one of the lowest turnouts with only eight people showing up.
But it appears that in some cases reports were based only on the turnout figures in the provinces’ capitals, without including the number of respondents in other districts.
At Khon Kaen City’s Damrongtham Center, a state office for public complaints, officials reported at total number of 35 respondents on Monday. Ten people specifically visited the center to answer the prime minister’s questions while the remaining respondents were invited to respond after they had lodged general complaints.
But the total number of respondents, including all of the province’s 26 districts, stood at 1,115 people as of Monday evening, officials told The Isaan Record. The highest number of respondents, 330 people, was counted in Nong Ruea District, west of Khon Kaen City.
On May 26, Prayuth had made an unusual request on his weekly television address to the country by inviting citizens to directly reply to a set of questions about national elections and their possible outcomes.
In his first question, Mr. Prayuth asks whether or not people believed that the next elections could produce government that would follow the concept of good governance.
If the elections failed to bring such a government to power what was to be done?
Elections alone could not determine the country’s future, but there needed to be a national strategy and reforms. The third question asks whether or not people agreed.
Mr. Prayuth further asks if politicians who behaved “inappropriately in the past” should get the chance to seek office again. If yes, what should happen if these politicians cause problems. “Who should then solve the problems and by what means?” Mr. Prayuth asks
The prime minister’s initiative was met with criticism from politicians across the political spectrum and civil society actors who pointed out that the phrasing of the questions was “suggestive.” Many questioned if the Prayuth government planned to hold on to power by further delaying national elections that were initially promised for 2015.