Pollsters intimidated by government

BANGKOK (AFP): A Thai polling organisation accused the government of intimidation this morning, saying police and military swooped on its offices and seized documents after its most recent survey showed flagging support for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. “Special Branch police came here yesterday and warned us that we should inform them in advance both before conducting new surveys and releasing the results,” a senior official at ABAC-KSC Internet Poll told AFP. On Febuary 11, the ABAC Poll released to mark the one-year anniversary of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s term in office found that the premier and some of his ministers need to overhaul their image. It also reported that voters were becoming concerned over conflicts of interest within the government, and its failure to make good on an election promise to revitalise the flagging economy. The ABAC official said the independent pollsters were frustrated with the government’s heavy-handed tactics, but vowed they would continue their work and said the government should be aware of the public’s views. He said that apart from visits by Special Branch police, interference also came from military personnel and the University Affairs Bureau, which oversees both state-run and privately-run universities. The University Affairs Bureau claimed that the ABAC-KSC Internet Poll was wrong in calculating its results on percentage of actual respondents, saying it should be based on the total sample. “On this topic, it was a very open-ended question and there were some 500 responses which we could analyse, while the rest of the 700 sampled were not able to be used,” the director of the survey, Noppadon Kanikar, said. “Overall, we are confident that our method was accurate and represented the views of the whole sample,” he added. Noppadon said the events after the February 11 poll marked the first time the authorities had interfered with pollsters’ work in Thailand. “The ABAC-KSC Internet Poll does not agree with the actions of the authorities to interfere [with] and distort the [work of] pollsters to please some group of people at the top,” the organisation said in a statement.

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