An informal survey of over 100 foreign tourists and expats in the Pattaya area suggests that most of them are happy with the May 22 coup, military strongman and now PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and the main political events since then. The survey on a random survey basis was conducted by Pattaya Today in early November, although no claim is made that the results typify foreign sentiment as a whole. About half of the respondents were British, the rest mainly French, German and Russian. Women made up about a third of the group.
More than 80 percent of those questioned found the most reassuring fact was that the May putsch had led to the arrival of public order on the streets of Bangkok. One typical respondent said, “Most foreigners in Thailand just want a good time here. They are not much interested in Thai politics but they do know that there were bombings and shootings in Bangkok in the early months of this year.” But 92 percent said they had not personally witnessed any public disorder or even any street crime of any kind in Pattaya.
As regards the situation in Pattaya, most respondents said their knowledge of street crimes came from local newspapers and various internet sites. “I personally have not seen any attacks or robberies,” said one respondent, “but I know they exist because of watching the local TV. But I feel that the main purpose of publicizing crime is actually to boost circulation as bad news is always more popular than the good variety.”
According to the survey, the best known street crimes were those committed by transgender ladyboys. “We are constantly told about police crackdowns,” said a respondent, “but the problem remains as these people are released after paying a derisory fine.” Virtually no respondents appeared to know that some transgender people in the resort are in paid employment and are not reduced to a life of crime and prostitution.
As regards the political future of Thailand, opinion was more evenly split. 58 percent of respondents felt that the military government should remain in office until the country was reorganized, even if that tenure were to last more than 18 months. But a substantial minority of 30 percent felt that civil disorder was bound to ensue if a return to democratic elections was delayed for too long. “The country can’t remain under martial law indefinitely,” said a respondent, “and people simply have to be allowed a safety valve of expression.” 12 percent had no opinion.
Asked about the coup effects in Pattaya, 64 percent said they had not noticed any since the abolition of the initial curfew several months ago. But a further 30 percent lamented the loss of the English-speaking local radio stations which have only recently been returning on air. Another effect noticed by about one third of the respondents was the change in various immigration rules relating to farang visas, although this was essentially a police matter. However, General Prayuth last August did ask the Immigration Bureau to implement changes with sensitivity to avoid barring genuine tourists from entry to the Kingdom.
The survey also showed that most foreigners were much more concerned with parochial issues than with national ones. “I’d like to see better roads in Pattaya, a new railway system, efficient policing and proper attention to environmental issues,” commented one respondent. Another said, “I’m more concerned with the cost of living and the value of the pound than with what’s going on in the Bangkok centers of power.” Those particular sentiments are likely widespread in the foreign community.