By THE NATION
THE NATIONAL university entrance exams may be brought forward to avoid clashing with the general elections, tentatively set for February 24.
Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin said yesterday that the General and Professional Academic Aptitude Tests, known as GAT and PAT, can be held a week earlier than previously scheduled.
He said the decision to bring the tests forward was to ensure the schedule of the Thai University Centre Admission System is not delayed.
The minister said he would discuss the issue again with the Secretariat of the Conference of University Presidents of Thailand tomorrow to reach a final conclusion, but promised that the examination date will not clash with the elections. In fact, he said, it would be probably a good idea to hold the examination before the election so that the students were not distracted.
This development comes in response to previous concerns that holding the GAT/PAT exams on the same day as the election would not give first-time voters a chance to cast their ballots.
The exams will be taken by Mathayom 6 or high-school students, most of whom are 18 years old and eligible to vote.
Many parties and political observers believe these first-time voters will be especially eager to cast their ballots, especially as Thailand has not had a successful general election since 2010 when Yingluck Shinawatra was elected as the Kingdom’s first woman prime minister. First-time voters will account for 7 million of the 52 million eligible voters.
Meanwhile, political campaigns have kicked off, now that the junta has partially eased the ban on political activities.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that the authorities will meet politicians in November or December to discuss how the ban could be fully lifted.
However, political parties have been campaigning actively for party members over the past couple of months.
Leaders of new parties, such as Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from the Future Forward Party and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul have been travelling around the country to set up branches and to encourage people to join their party.
Veteran politician Suthep Thaugsuban, representing Action Coalition for Thailand Party, visited several areas of Bangkok last week to encourage people to join the Action Coalition Party. However, he encountered mixed reactions, with some recognising him as a former protest leader and welcoming him, while others denounced him for not keeping his word. Suthep had promised that he would not return to politics after ousting Yingluck’s government almost five years ago.
Pheu Thai Party, meanwhile, selected its new executive last weekend. Its new head of the election strategy committee, Khunying Sudarat Kayuraphan, is heading to Nakhon Ratchasima province today to meet up with local voters as well as encourage people to become members of the party.
Former Nakhon Ratchasima MPs yesterday asserted that they remained with Pheu Thai, denying news reports that some might move to Pheu Thai’s sister party to skirt the threat of party dissolution.