July 1st, 2011
02:45 PM ET

Value of the vote in Thailand

The first time I ever voted was in 2000. I turned 18 exactly two weeks before election day. I was excited to finally take part in the democratic process. After making my selections, I eagerly waited to find out who would be the next President of the United States. And waited. That was the year of the "hanging chad" and the final decision ultimately rested on the Supreme Court.

To put it mildly, the democratic process did not work the way I had expected.

So I  wonder what it must be like for young voters ahead of Thailand's election. The country has been through 18 attempted military coups since becoming a democracy in 1932. It has had the same number of constitutions. That's a new governing document just about every 4.5 years.

The 2006 coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was actually the first in 15 years. His allies won the following election held in 2007. But courts essentially overturned the result, throwing out the next two pro-Thaksin prime ministers. Lawmakers then voted to put current prime minister, Abihisit Vejjajiva, in office.

That somewhat daunting precedent does not discourage 18-year-old Pattariya Jusakul. She is a first-year student at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. Pattariya says, "I'm really excited to vote for the first time. Every vote makes a small difference and people must not have the attitude that their single vote is insignificant."

Fellow members of her school's debating society echoed her sentiment. But believing in the value of the vote is not the same as supporting the system.

"The nature of Thai politics being corrupted, leads me to make a decision not on who's better but who's less worse," says club president Kitprasert Nopparat. He adds that the country needs a free media to become a more democratic society.

The two main candidates and their parties have embraced social media tools in this election. Prime Minister Abhisit posts frequently to his Facebook page and has used Livestream for campaign events. His chief rival, Pheu Thai's Yingluck Shinawatra, also is on Facebook and Twitter.

It's unclear what sort of impact social media might have on young voters. If this were a battle based on follower-count, then Abhisit would be winning. But the polls put him behind Yingluck  -  even in the Democrat's traditional base of Bangkok (though Thai opinion surveys can be a bit off the mark).

Still, neither party is expected to win an outright majority on Sunday. And the party that wins the most seats is not necessarily the one that goes on to govern. Coalition negotiations will be crucial. The outcome could leave many people upset and potentially spill into another round of massive street protests.

As Pattariya puts it, "Maybe the result isn't so important, but the way the country behaves about the result."

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. TrulyThai

    Almost all the polls have been pointing to Yingluck as the outright winner in this election. This is not surprising because Thai people at large know what has really been going on in the country and they want a big change for Thailand.
    They have been sick and tired of the government's leader, Abhisit, who is good only at talking, allows so much corruption in all ministries, allows the killing of 91 citizens & injuring over 2,000 innocent people last year, quarrels with neighboring Cambodia over border issue, and so on.

    Mind you, Yingluck's victory will not come easy! There have been many signs of tricky and dishonest methods & techniques employed by Abhisit, Suthep and Newin, even being assisted by the Election Committee, in order to snatch the victory from Yingluck.
    This is really awful because millions of votes will be swindled in this election. We shall wait and see the results on Monday 3rd of July, and let's hope the devils won't prevail.

    July 1, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  2. adulvitK

    We will not let the beasts enter the parliment. We will vote NO.

    July 2, 2011 at 5:57 am | Reply
  3. todd saed

    thank you truly thai for the honest and calm appraisal, clear and direct, heres hoping the little conscience will replace the homunculus in Abhisits head.

    July 2, 2011 at 6:09 am | Reply
  4. thaisamai

    Trulythai . .you are truly redshirt and what you say is the party platform.

    The corruption was worse under Taksin and it will never be cured. Ever. This government didnt "allow" anything and did rather well at controlling the destructive elements. How many more buildings would you have burned down anyway?

    Of course there are no" tricks or dishonesty" in the red camp. Everybody is behaving like saints there . .right? (What country are you in anyway?)

    You reds just haven't learned anything. You have a valuable message but no clue how to go about thing in a non-destructive way. Backing Taksin . .the biggest crook in Thai history ( and that is saying something!) is sure-fire destruction.

    Of course we all hope that things turn out well, but history and the way Thai society is set up make a happy ending unlikely. When laws are applied based on your status and your standing in society determines everything. When you only get fair treatment if you have friends in high places. When the rich and powerful manipulate the uneducated poor to their own advantage . .then any election is a recipe for disaster. I think we are gonna be in trouble here no matter who wins.

    July 2, 2011 at 6:13 am | Reply
  5. weR1thai

    Reds, Yellow, Blue.. please do not forget we are all Thai. Though we have different beliefs/opinions, we should not let that evolve into hatred or violence towards one another. I hope that the elected party will be able to unite the Thais and move forward to improving the quality of lives for everyone in our nation. I will surely be casting my vote on July 3rd!

    July 2, 2011 at 7:21 am | Reply
    • Morteza

      i am just about to move to koh phangan as i have been with my panertr for 7 years and we've recently had a baby, being the fact that he is not thai but mynamar makes it difficult for me to put my daughter in a government run school and being english thought i may have to move my buisness over to koh samui ..im glad to hear that farang are teaming together to make an international school happen and will be obliged to help.

      May 20, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
  6. Tom

    Do you really think that this election "charade" will help Thailand evolve? The criminal corrupt elements of Thai society are behind the scenes manipulating and micro managing very detail of the game. Thailand is a failed state, army, police, and political corruption run rampant everyday election or no election. Elite class abuse of authority and criminal behavior with impunity can be illustrated in the reported media let alone all that is not reported. Political murders, foreign deaths, Thai deaths, mass food poisonings, opaque company events, actions, and results, nothing followed up. Censored news, books, and TV, controlled and manipulated society, intellectual property theft sanctioned by the government and business in all aspects of Thai society – universities, business, police, army..etc. What can you say about the preposterous nature of an election? Sources indicate that now corruption and bribery amount to 40% of gross profit in Thailand. prostitution is illegal, but the majority of tourism thrives on it and depends on. Prostitution in Thai society, not counting foreign visible and reported activity, dwarfs the tourist sector. The overall Thai, underground or "black economy" is rarely if ever discussed, and never controlled for tax, illegal activity, safety, health and medical standards, public recourse..etc. Do you really think that the election charade this weekend will change any of Thailand? Or will it just be the bell ringing to start more fighting, civil unrest, killing, supression of rights, and total anarchy validating that Thailand's failed state becomes more public?

    July 2, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Reply
  7. Randall

    Do you wonder why so many young thai's vote.....very easy. You lose certain rights of citizenship(something to do with land ownership) if you do not vote every so many years. Young people wanting to vote-I think not. Young people having to vote-I think yes.

    July 3, 2011 at 7:32 am | Reply
  8. ChiangMai

    the real trouble here will only come if one side does not accept the outcome. I am living abroad and am not from Thailand but live in Chiang Mai. Thaksin is very corrupt and has taken advantage of the Thai people for a very long time. However, both sides in this have been doing corrupt things for a very long time. I just hope that each side can accept the results but with an election this close, who knows.

    July 3, 2011 at 7:43 am | Reply
  9. Richard

    My Prediction>
    Pheu Thai will win.
    And Abhisit will be next Prime Minister.
    Richard. Bangkok.

    July 3, 2011 at 8:41 am | Reply
  10. UnfortunateThailand

    @TrulyThai , ok what your saying is complete insanity. For all i know, your probably one of thaksin's paid writer to spam misleading messages like this one all over the internet.
    How is it that aphisit was responsible for the deaths and the disruption of the city when it was all red shirts idea, there are numerous video clips bluntly pointing out that you guys did it. Your uneducated, theifs, burned down my hometown bangkok, and then u come here and point fingers at the innocent party.
    As for my self, i am deeply dissapointed with the result of this election. how can some lady with absolutely zero experience in politics or even business run my country. to worsen the problem she happens to be the sister of the ousted ex prime minister, whose madness have driven thailand to the ground. Just watch from now on and see what she will do. I guaranteed, all the times will be wasted just to bring back Thaksin. And to all u red shirts out there, HOW THE !@#$% could u vote for someone that burned down my country and took lives of innocent people. USE ur brain, not the 500 bath he gave u.

    July 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Reply
    • Jeon

      Beautiful pics Talen and a beautiful river. I have lived next to it in Vientiane and now am only 45 mtienus away. I could sit and watch it all day.When we were in Vientiane I would go to Thadeua to meet friends coming off the train at Nong Khai & across on the ferry. As you know, the train gets in very early (or should) so I would sit and watch the sun rise from right in the middle of the river. An incredible and unforgettable sight..-= Lawrenceb4s last blog .. =-.

      June 28, 2012 at 1:34 am | Reply
  11. iamthai

    I'm Thai hoping to see all Thai's united as one just remember how lucky we are that from South to North we have plenty resources for all THAI. Why are we still talking about the past why don't we all let them passed and look ahead for a better future. I love Thailand .

    July 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Reply
  12. amazing thailand

    All of the buffalos who voted for Ying Luck because of her brother will see just how her political policies ( or lack of ) will tear the country apart even more.
    Thailand will be far worse off than when K. Abhisit was in power ( he at least cared about Thailand). The idea that One man can be above the law and should come back with no jail time spent is a disgrace, and a slap in the face to every law abiding citizen in Thailand. We will see if Ying Luck tries to get her brothers money back and how government contracts will favour his cronies and the kick backs will more than compensate for his siezed money.
    The uneducated masses that make up the majority of the Red Shirts have just sold their country and their vote for 300 baht.

    A sad day for Thailand indeed !

    July 4, 2011 at 5:04 am | Reply

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