Surveys show the majority support protesters but fear violence

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In apparent contradiction, separate opinion polls have found that, while a majority of people agree with the demands of pro-democracy demonstrators, a majority also fear that the ongoing wave of protests could lead to division and violence in society, particularly if protesters touch on the subject of the Monarchy.

An opinion survey by the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, or Suan Dusit Poll, found a majority agree with the 3 demands raised by the Free People group, believing they are in line with democratic principles, but some believe the demonstrators must not infringe on Thailand’s Monarchy. The poll was conducted online August 16-21 on 197,029 people of various ages, education levels and occupations across the country.

Asked what they think about the ongoing wave of anti-government protests by students, with each respondent allowed to choose more than one answer:

  • 59.1% said they are making demands as allowed in a democracy
  • 41.8% said they must not infringe on the monarchy
  • 40.4% were concerned about their security and the danger they could be attacked
  • 40.1% said all concerned should listen to the demonstrators and 38.9% thought they might have some clandestine supporters
  • 33.8% said the students are showing the people have the right to freedom of expression
  • 28.6% said they’re sowing division and creating disorder
  • 28.3% said the demonstrations are part of a political game
  • 26.48% said they are calling for changes for the betterment of the country
  • 26.53% said the demonstrations are a show of opinions by people of a new generation who want the country to undergo reform.

Regarding the demand for a rewrite of Thailand’s Constitution:

  • 62.8% agreed, with some saying the present constitution is undemocratic and perpetuates dictatorship, and that the provision governing senators must be amended. Others said only problematic sections should be amended and that the people should participate in the drafting of the new Constitution as the existing one is out of date and not suitable in the present situation.
  • 24.8% disagreed, saying the existing charter is good enough and there are now many more urgent problems such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic slump
  • 12.3% had no comment

On the demand that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha “resign and dissolve parliament”:

  • 53.9% agreed, with it, saying Prayut has failed in his administration, causing the country to be racked with economic problems and plagued by corruption and nepotism, as he is a dictator and lacks legitimacy to remain in the position
  • 38.4% disagreed, saying Prayut is a good and honest person who has sacrificed for the country and that since he won an election, he should be allowed to complete the 4-year term
  • 7.7% had no comment
  • Concerning the demand that the government “stop intimidating” the people:
  • 59.5% agreed with it, saying people should be free to express their opinions without being intimidated
  • 29.2% disagreed, saying authorities are duty-bound to enforce the law to prevent anarchy
  • 11.3% had no comment

When asked about their overall opinion on student demonstrations,

  • 53.7% supported them, saying they are exercising fundamental rights and have a clear intention of wanting to see true democracy
  • 41.2% disagreed, saying that if the demands are extended to infringe on the Monarchy there may be a state of disorder while the country is struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19 and the sagging economy
  • 5.12% had no comment

But another poll, carried out by the National Institute of Development Administration, or NIDA Poll, found that a majority of people are concerned the demonstration like the ones by the Free People group at Thammasat University on August 10 and at the Democracy Monument on August 16 could lead to division and violence. The poll was conducted August 18-20 on 1,312 people aged 18 and over of various levels of education and occupations throughout the country to compile their opinions on the 2 demonstrations.

Asked whether they were concerned the demonstrations would lead to division and violence in society,

  • 61.1% said they wereconcerned
  • 34.8% said they are “somewhat worried” by the protests for fear they would lead to clashes between people with differing opinions
  • 26.4% are “very worried” for fear the demonstrations would be influenced by a third party, as happened in the past, and want the Free People group to postpone their rallies until Covid-19 has been 100% eradicated
  • 24.2% of respondents said they were “not concerned at all” because rallies are common in Thai politics and the demonstrations by the Free People groups have been peaceful
  • 0.5%, had no comment or were not interested

Asked how Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should respond to the demonstrations — with each respondent allowed to give more than one reply, answers were as follows:

  • 45.3% said he should pay personal attention to the problems raised by the demonstrators
  • 24.16% said he should dissolve parliament and call a new election
  • 11.43% said he should amend Section 256 of the constitution to make way for the setting up of a constitution drafting council and a new election
  • 11.36% suggested he listen to problems voiced by the protesters through parliamentary mechanisms
  • 9.07% said he should amend the constitution section by section and dissolve parliament for a new election
  • 9.54% said he should use state mechanisms to maintain law and order in society
  • 6.17% said he should stay indifferent and do nothing
  • 4.50% suggested he take legal action against wrongdoers
  • 0.99% had no comment or were not interested

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