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Asia Foundation’s Survey of the Thai People Gauges Attitudes toward Constitution, Reform, and Democracy

Bangkok and San Francisco, September 16, 2009 — Read the Thai language version of this press release.

See the Thai language version of the survey.

Thailand continues to struggle for political stability three years after the Sept. 2006 coup. Contentious factions have organized numerous protests and counter-protests, some leading to violence, and even derailing a high-profile summit of Asian leaders. Calls for constitutional reforms have competed with demands for recovery from the global economic crisis. In May 2009, Thailand’s National Assembly convened a parliamentary committee to receive suggestions for reform and to study potential changes to the Constitution that would facilitate national reconciliation. To ensure that opinions from Thai citizens are represented during this time of political turmoil, The Asia Foundation conducted a nationwide opinion poll in 26 provinces that gauges the national mood toward election reform, participation in politics, amending the constitution, and more. Today, the results of that poll, Constitutional Reform and Democracy in Thailand: A National Survey of the Thai People, were released.

The survey reveals that the Thai electorate is pessimistic about the overall direction of the country, with less than a third saying the country is moving in the right direction. At the center of the national debate is the current Constitution, which voters approved in an August 2007 referendum, replacing the 1997 Constitution.

“The survey results shed light on emerging trends and changing attitudes of Thai voters, including compelling insights into controversial issues surrounding the calls for revisions to the 2007 Constitution, as well as hot button topics like political amnesty and impunity,” said Dr. James Klein, the Foundation’s Country Representative in Thailand. An overwhelming majority (84 percent) believes that a new or revised Constitution should be ratified through a referendum.

The survey also asked respondents their views on vote buying, influences on them in the voting process, their allegiance to political parties, and their level of trust in institutions. Thais give the courts by far the highest integrity rating, with two-thirds (64 percent) assessing them positively. The army has the second highest positive rating at 44 percent, while the police are seen as the least-trusted institution. Only 35 percent gave the election commission high marks, and just 21 percent felt the media has high integrity.

Decentralization was also a key focus of the survey. “As politicians and other stakeholders debate the future of the political process in Thailand, it was interesting to note that a substantial majority (69 percent) of our survey respondents are in favor of shifting some power from the national to the local level, and directly electing provincial governors,” said Tim Meisburger, The Asia Foundation’s Regional Director for Elections and Political Processes and the author of the survey.

Conducted through face-to-face interviews with 1,500 respondents nationwide, the survey allows lawmakers, politicians, academics, and the media to assess the process of democratization and measure Thai voters’ knowledge of and attitudes toward democracy and political reform. Due to the current security situation preventing in-person interviews in some areas, the three southern border provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala were not included in the random sampling selection process. Survey fieldwork was conducted by MI Advisory, a professional Thai survey firm, between June 13 and July 5, 2009.

The complete findings from Constitutional Reform and Democracy in Thailand: A National Survey of the Thai People is available on our website. The report is also available in Thai.

For more information please visit our Press Room.

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