GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
PRINCETON, NJ -- On Sept. 19, 2006, the Royal Thai Army staged a coup against the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The coup, Thailand's first in 15 years, was bloodless and was the result of the culmination of political uncertainty that followed the snap elections that Thaksin had prematurely called to shore up his support. The election was eventually overturned by the country's constitutional court and a new round of elections were scheduled for this November.
According to a recent article in The Economist, the principle reasons stated for the coup was "rampant corruption" in the government and deep division created in the Thai society by the actions of Thaksin.
A Gallup Poll conducted in Thailand in the months of June-July of this year reveals interesting insights about the public opinion context and environment in which the coup eventually took place.
On the issue of corruption, more than 8 in 10 Thais say there is widespread corruption in both the government and in businesses. These sentiments are equally shared by both urban and rural Thais. A majority, 52%, are dissatisfied with efforts to fight crime and corruption. These perceived corruption figures are among the highest the Gallup World Poll has measured across seven Southeast Asian countries.
The recent crisis surrounding the validity of the April elections, which were boycotted by the main opposition party, and the subsequent annulment of these elections by the constitutional court has undoubtedly contributed to a very low level of public confidence (34%) in the honesty of the election system -- one of the lowest across the Southeast Asia region. Confidence in the judicial system, however, is high -- at 79% overall.
When it comes to confidence in the national government, Thais are about evenly divided in their opinion. Fifty percent express confidence in their national government while 42% withhold confidence. Rural Thais have slightly more confidence in their government than do those living in urban areas.
All of the reviewed measures provide telling indicators of the potential for upheaval in Thailand, and underscore the power of the measurement of public opinion as an important indicator of the health of a nation's governing system.
There is an additional measure which helps understand the ability of the Thai military to overthrow the government without massive resistance: The Thai public has a very high degree of confidence in the military in Thailand (86%).
Thailand has been witness to 17 other coups since World War II. The fact that there was no violence or bloodshed associated with this coup -- and that Thais hold a high degree of confidence in the military -- suggest that if the current crisis is handled effectively through quick transfer of power to a legitimate civilian government, and is followed by much needed constitutional reforms, Thailand could indeed regain its position as a stable democracy in the region.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1410 residents of Thailand, aged 15 and older, conducted June 9-July 20, 2006. Interviews were conducted in Thai. Households were selected at random, and respondents within households were chosen at random according to Kish tables.
For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling, weighting and other random effects is ±4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Sample sizes for other countries in Southeast Asia were over 1000 and data was collected in these countries between February and July 2006.