A colleague in Thailand has provided these fascinating local perspectives on the government’s referendum campaign. They come from informal telephone interviews with residents of a village in northern Thailand where she has very good local contacts. The discussions refer to the major “Power for Democracy” rally held by PM Surayud in Chiang Mai earlier this week.
[A small scale trader in the market.] The campaign for the referendum has had one important effect – the headman is making announcments every day, there are meetings every day. Yesterday they got village representatives, 10 from each village, to go and listen to the campaign in Chiang Mai. Some of the villagers went because they got more than 100 baht per person. Just to go and listen to Surayut! I think we should accept the constitution. Because I want the problems to stop. Whoever wins or loses the villagers are not so interested in this issue. I have not seen people talking about it. I got the yellow book [draft constitution], but I didn’t read it because I have not had time. Too busy selling things. And the others are too busy planting crops.
[A successful farmer and small scale businessman.] The officers from the district office asked us to go the meeting at the sports stadium in Chiang Mai. I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but they gave us money to go. And they told us to wear yellow to express our solidarity. Hundreds and hundreds of people went, from every district. Everyone has received the yellow book. But I don’t think it has had much effect. Some houses got four or five copies. Some houses didn’t get one. I think that some villagers don’t really understand. They are wondering what they have to choose. They are wondering whey there are are not any candidates’ pictures. When there are candidates they know who they will vote for and what they will get. Officially the campaign wants us to accept the constitution. That’s what the headman emphasizes when he makes his announcements.
[The wife of a sub-district official.] The Amphoe asked us to send representatives to the stadium in Chiang Mai. I went with my husband. But when Surayud was speaking we didn’t listen. Just to go and see his face was enough. The district office made us wear yellow. If you weren’t wearing yellow they would not let you into the rally because that would disrupt the atmosphere. And you wouldn’t get any of the food they distributed. I think a lot of villagers don’t agree with the draft. Because if it passes it is like promoting the military system. Close to a dictatorship? But there are a lot of people who don’t know what they are talking about. And they are likely to accept it. But the more knowledgable villagers probably won’t accept it. Tomorrow there will be another meeting to explain the policy of the draft. So the villagers can decide to accept it or not. At this stage I still don’t know how I will vote.