Asia Foundation Releases Profile of the “Bangkok Shutdown” Protestors

Second survey offers inside look at anti-government PDRC demonstrators

Bangkok, February 6, 2014 — The Asia Foundation in Thailand today released a report, Profile of the “Bangkok Shutdown” Protestors, which presents the findings of a second survey of anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) demonstrators in Bangkok conducted on January 13-14, 2014. The short survey is a follow-up to the Foundation’s November 2013 survey of the PDRC and Red Shirt supporters in Bangkok.

This survey profiles the PDRC demonstrators assembled at the seven key intersections in Bangkok targeted by the Bangkok Shutdown campaign. The aim of this second rapid perception survey is two-fold: (1) to learn about the demographic composition of the latest PDRC gatherings; and (2) to probe the perspectives of PDRC activists on a series of questions related to the current tensions, the February 2, 2014 election, and related issues.

While all possible steps were taken within the parameters of available time to enhance the rigor of the survey, the sample size achieved was modest and the margin of error in any finding commensurately large at approximately 10 percent. Despite the limitations of the sample size and methodology, the findings of this rapid survey will contribute to a better understanding of the demographics and perspectives of the PDRC activists.

Highlights of the survey findings include:

  • Demographics: The age group represented in largest number among respondents was those 45 to 54 years of age (25%), followed by those aged 35 to 44 (19%), 15 to 24 (19%), and 25 to 34 and 55 to 64 (17%, respectively). Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) were university graduates, with only 11% of respondents having secondary school degrees or lower. Fifty-four percent of respondents lived in Bangkok, with the other 46% coming from communities and regions outside the capital. The largest percentage of respondents (40%) had incomes higher than 60,000 baht (+$1,930) per month, while 50% earned between 10,000 baht ($320) and 60,000 baht.
  • Organization of the Rally: The vast majority (98%) of respondents surveyed participated in the PDRC-organized Bangkok Shutdown campaign in an independent personal capacity, with just 2% engaged as PDRC rally staff or supervisors.
  • Past Participation in Political Demonstration: Thirty-five percent of respondents had attended political demonstrations prior to October 2013 (the start of the present political tensions), while 65% had not. Among respondents who had attended prior demonstrations, 16% last participated in demonstrations in 2013, while 12% last participated in 2010, 39% in 2006, 8% in 1992, and 8% in 1973.
  • Motivating Factors: Forty percent of respondents indicated that their participation in the Bangkok Shutdown campaign was motivated by the aim of ending the political dynasty of the Shinawatra family, while 15%, respectively, reported that they were motivated by protecting the monarchy or ensuring that political reform measures would be taken prior to the February 2, 2014 parliamentary election.
  • Positive and Negative Elements of Past Political Regimes: Forty-two percent of respondents could not cite an example of something “good” associated with the Shinawatra regime, while 58% could cite at least one positive example. Fifteen percent cited the satisfactory policy and other outputs, while 11% and 9%, respectively, cited decisive leadership and effective administration. In the case of positive elements of the previous Democrat administration (2008 to 2011), respondents cited honesty (20%), less corruption than other governments (20%), effective administration (13%), and satisfactory policy and other governance outputs (11%). With respect to the negative aspects of the Thaksin regime, 72% of respondents cited corruption, while 5% cited immoral behavior. In the case of negative aspects of the previous Democrat administration, the largest percentage of respondents cited the impact of slow administration on national development (55%). They also cited corruption (8%) and weakness in assuming a bold stance on key issues (7%).
  • Priority Reforms: Among issues in the five-point reform agenda proposed by PDRC, combatting corruption ranked first in priority, followed by police reform, education reform, decentralization, and media reform. Three-quarters of respondents (76%) agreed that formal measures should be taken to ensure that any party winning the February 2, 2014 election would be bound to follow a reform mandate, while 78% indicated that a legal obligation on the part of the next elected government to initiate a national reform process would lead respondents to abandon their anti-government demonstrations.
  • Election Boycott: Eighty-one percent of respondents disagreed with the view that democracy in Thailand would be weakened by the decision of some political parties to boycott the February 2 election.
  • Military Intervention: Seventy-three percent of respondents believed that military intervention was not justified in the current political situation, while 27% felt that it was. Fifty-seven percent felt that military intervention would be justified if the political situation was to deteriorate to the point that violence occurred, while 43% disagreed.
  • Use of Violence to Achieve Political Aims: While the majority of respondents (62%) rejected the notion that violence can be justified to achieve political objectives, over one-third (38%) expressed support for the use of violence in some circumstances.

The Asia Foundation conducts national public perception surveys in Thailand and other countries as part of its development programming and to inform policy debate. Download the survey here.

Read more about the Foundation’s programs in Thailand. For media inquiries, please visit the Press Room.

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