Monday, September 23, 2019

Suppression of poll on Prawit’s watches has damaged junta

Jan 30. 2018
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As a former NIDA marketing research instructor, I fully defend the right of NIDA Poll director Arnond Sakworawich to publish the findings of his poll (“Nida polling chief quits over survey on Prawit scandal”, January 29).

His opinion survey titled “Borrowed luxury watches: twisted or true?” asked respondents whether they believe Deputy PM Prawit’s claim that his 25 ultra-luxury watches, worth many millions of baht when his current monthly income is only B250,000, were, in fact, loaned to him by an anonymous friend.

NIDA Rector Pradit Wanarat said he halted publication of the poll’s results because General Prawit’s case is still being investigated by the authorities, and knowing the poll results might influence public opinion. Such intervention constitutes blatant interference with Dr Arnond’s academic freedom, which is “the right of teachers and students to express their ideas in the classroom or in writing, free from political, religious, or institutional restrictions, even if these ideas are unpopular” (dictionary.com).

Rector Pradit evidently accepts that the findings are valid, in other words that the questions were not leading. An academically rigorous survey, such as the one in question, helps a military junta keep in close touch with how the citizenry at large feels about vital issues of the day, since it doesn’t have elected representatives to fulfil this function. Corruption is one of the key reasons given by the junta leaders for their takeover: but does the citizenry feel that some of the coup leaders have themselves been corrupt? If, as alleged, 85 per cent of respondents don’t believe Prawit’s explanation, then that’s all the more reason for PM Prayut to investigate the matter quickly and transparently, instead of continuing to stonewall.

Rector Pradit, academically rigorous poll results are routinely released around the world, including in Thailand, and are of immense value to governments. Let our government know what Thais feel, and defend academic freedom.

Burin Kantabutra

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