In a week which is providing the sixth anniversary of the 2014 military coup in Thailand, we asked a random sample of 50 long-term expats for their opinion on the political fallout. Interviews in person or by phone were conducted over the last five days. There is no claim the poll is scientific.
About half expressed the view that it is not for foreigners to get involved in national or local politics. “The subjects which concern expats are immigration rules and the cost of living,” said Graham, a retired Brit with a Thai wife and a young child. He added that the coup of May 22, 2014 had not really affected foreigners in Pattaya. “The only thing I can remember is an army outpost in a tent on Sukhumvit Road which lasted a couple of months.”
Roughly 40 percent of the respondents said they felt the military government of coup leader general Prayut Chan-o-cha, who now heads a military-backed civilian government since last year’s general election, had performed well. “When I recall the riots of 2010 when Bangkok was partly in flames and the terrible street violence prior to the 2014 putsch, I think the relative calm of the last six years is to be welcomed,” said Thomas from Sweden who runs a small restaurant on the Dark Side.
A bare handful of those asked in the informal survey were critical of the military intervention and its consequences, pointing mostly to anti-democratic moves such as the banning of the Future Forward party which polled well in last year’s general election. Its successor, the Progressive Movement, is said to be galvanizing young people and has controversially beamed laser projections on Bangkok landmarks “seeking the truth” about alleged military misconduct in the past.
Several respondents thought that the current government had handled the Covid-19 pandemic well by closing all Thai borders to foreign visitors and ordering a lockdown on many daily activities. The most unpopular moves have been the ban on the sale of alcohol, now replaced by a more limited ban on serving booze in restaurants, and the former road blocks in and out of Pattaya which caused a lot of confusion.
The poll, suggesting that many expats are indifferent to Thai politics, is only to be expected. Retiree Graham concluded, “Expats are marginalized in Thai society and nobody comes to live in Pattaya to start a revolution.”