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Asia Foundation Releases Its First Survey of Thailand’s Deep South

Bangkok and San Francisco, December 16, 2010 — 750 residents polled across the three southern border provinces of Yala, Narathiwas, and Pattani

The Asia Foundation today released findings from its first-ever, in-person public perception survey in Thailand’s three southern border provinces of Yala, Narathiwas, and Pattani. Democracy and Conflict in Southern Thailand: A Survey of the Thai Electorate in Yala, Narathiwas, and Pattani is the first survey focused on Thailand’s Deep South conducted by The Asia Foundation’s office in Bangkok. The fieldwork was conducted through in-person interviews with a random, representative sample of 750 individuals of voting age in the three provinces between July 2 and August 30, 2010.

The survey can be accessed in its entirety here.

In capturing the opinions of citizens of the three southern border provinces, the 2010 Southern Survey provides government officials, academics, civil society organizations, the international community, and other stakeholders with essential information on citizen views and experiences in a region that has been plagued by unrest for six years.

Building on The Asia Foundation’s 2009 National Survey of 1,500 Thai citizens (excluding the three southern border provinces), the 2010 Southern Survey features chapters on the southern mood, democratic values and institutions, political interest and efficacy, influences on voting choices, causes of the southern conflict, separatism and decentralization, and the role of the unique Pattani-Malay culture in defining southern values, identity, and expectations.

The survey reveals that citizens of the Deep South are more optimistic about the direction of the country than their national compatriots polled in 2009. In the 2009 National Survey, less than one-third (31%) said that the country is moving in the right direction, while 58% said that it is moving in the wrong direction.  In contrast, in the current survey, 46% of southerners say the country is moving in the right direction and 41% say the country is moving in the wrong direction.

The economy is a major factor in the way southern respondents assess the direction of the country, according to the current survey. The main reason for optimism about the direction of the country is the perception of economic growth, cited by 47% of southern respondents who say the country is moving in the right direction. Similarly, when asked about the biggest problem facing Thailand, 60% of respondents in the 2009 National Survey had pointed to the bad economy compared to only 23% of southerners in 2010, with another 20% pointing to the southern conflict compared to just 3% nationally.

Unrest in the south is another key focus of the survey. Over a third (37%) of southerners believe that the main cause of the southern conflict is the failure of officials to understand the local population. Only 17% believe that separatism is the main issue. Two-thirds (65%) believe that ethnic and religious differences are of equal status in explaining the conflict. The majority of southerners (56%) believe that local self government would help end the southern conflict, a finding that aligns with a national and southern preference for decentralization as a more effective form of governance (69% nationally and 67% Deep South).

A new national perception survey across the country’s 26 provinces is slated for release in 2011 and will provide new insights on the mood of the Thai citizens.

Designed and directed by The Asia Foundation, the 2010 Southern Survey is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with technical assistance from MIAdvisory in Bangkok.  The Asia Foundation has established a reputation for developing sophisticated empirical surveys for use across Asia in order to pinpoint citizen concerns and needs, to gauge public support for development initiatives, and to inform important policy debate and Foundation program design and refinement.

The complete findings from Democracy and Conflict in Southern Thailand: A Survey of the Thai Electorate in Yala, Narathiwas, and Pattani is available on our website. The report is also available in Thai.

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

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