A majority of people agree with demonstrations staged by young people and led by students of the Free Youth group and Student Union of Thailand, saying that they have the right to free expression in a democracy, according to the result of an opinion survey by the National Institute of Development Administration, or Nida Poll.
The poll was conducted on 1,250 people aged 18 and over of various levels of education and occupations throughout the country to compile their opinions on demonstrations staged in Bangkok and other provinces, calling for the government to dissolve parliament, stop intimidating the people and rewrite the constitution.
Asked to give their opinions on the demonstrations, with each respondent allowed to give more than one answer, their responses varied as follows:
26.56% said the demonstrators had the right and liberty to hold protests as long as they are unarmed and non-violent;
26.16% said they had the right to do so as long as it is not illegal;
18.24% thought the students were showing their true belief in democracy;
17.12% thought the rallies were to benefit the country’s future;
13.44% said they were intended to support democracy and oppose dictatorship;
9.76% said they might sow the seeds of division and chaos in the future;
8.88% believed the rallies were to oppose injustice in society;
7.04% said they were fed up with street demonstrations;
6.48% believed the rallies were intended to topple the government of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha;
6.08% believed political groups/parties were behind the demonstrations;
5.68% thought the rallies had a hidden purpose;
4.64% said the demonstrators were only following a trend in social media;
0.88% said foreign agencies might be behind the demonstrations;
0.72% said the demonstrations were illegal;
2.72% had no answer or were not interested.
Asked whether they agreed with the demonstrations, a slight majority — 54.00% — said “yes”, with 34.72% voicing strong support and saying they wanted to see change to improve the country, while 19.28% said they somewhat agreed with them, saying the youths only wanted to see justice and democracy prevail.
On the other side, 23.76% were totally opposed to the demonstrations, while 18.08% said they were not good for the country, which is still not 100% free of Covid-19.
The rest, 4.16%, had no answer or were not interested.
Asked whether they worried that the demonstrations might rekindle old political conflicts, a majority — 57.68% — said “yes”. Of this number, 29.76% said they were worried about this but did not think political conflicts would be as serious as in the past; 16.72% were concerned political conflicts could be as violent as in the past; and 1.20% said they could be even more violent than.
On the other side, 23.68% said they were not at all worried while 16.88% were slightly worried, believing the demonstrations would be short-lived.
The rest, 1.76%, had no answer or were not interested.
Asked how Gen Prayut should handle the demonstrations, answers were as follows:
42.72% said he should listen to what they had to say;
20.40% said he should dissolve parliament and call a new election immediately;
13.68% said he should amend the constitution and dissolve parliament to make way for a new election;
6.56% suggested he do nothing and stay indifferent; 5.36% said he should listen to the students via parliamentary channels;
4.72% suggested he use state mechanisms to maintain social order;
2.88% said he should exercise the law to deal with the demonstrators;
3.68% had no answer or were not interested.