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.