A resounding vote for democracy

politics March 25, 2019 01:00

By The Nation

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More than 33.6 million set aside their chores to cast ballots



ABOUT 33.6 million citizens cast ballots yesterday in Thailand’s first election since 2014.

The level of participation reflected how politically active Thais have become. 

Nuseela Doloh of Pattani province refused to miss out on the voting even on her wedding day. 

The smiling bride-to-be was chauffeured on the back of a relative’s motorcycle to and from a polling station dressed in her wedding gown. 

Two men in Saraburi province also marked their ballots while wearing white gowns. Nantawat Sukkasem and Wirach Deenikom cast their votes early because they were to be ordained as monks a few hours later.

The Election Commission (EC) estimated voter turnout at about 65.9 per cent. 

More than 51 million Thais were eligible to vote. Many took advantage of advance polling last weekend, but Election Day yesterday was busier by far.

“I am so excited and so glad to see so many people turning out,” 18-year-old Wanida Maseng said as she registered to vote at a polling station in Narathiwat.

Elderly citizens matched young first-time voters in their eagerness to play a role in the exercise. They came with walking sticks, in wheelchairs and as committed as any spry patriot.

At age 102, Naiphan Banlueharn could have been their spokesman. “Being old doesn’t mean we shouldn’t come out to vote,” said the Yasothon resident, who was at the polling station with his 98-year-old wife and their three children, also of advancing years. 

The first voter to show up at a station in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district was a 92-year-old woman. 

“I always vote,” said the woman, who asked not to be named. “And even though new rules were introduced, I don’t feel confused. I studied all the rules.”

Elderly voters at a polling station in the capital’s Bang Sue district had offers of help from a half-Thai, half-German schoolboy. 

Speaking fluent Thai, he helped flag down taxis for them as they left.

Overcoming difficulties

Amuk sae Tang arrived at his voting station in Yala in a wheelchair. 

“I have difficulty walking around so I asked my son to get me a wheelchair to come and vote,” he said as he registered for a ballot. 

Polling officials in Chiang Mai helped hilltribe people in their own dialects to understand the balloting.

“I am a Thai citizen, so I feel I have the duty to vote,” said Mayuree Janthima, 58, from Doi Pui.

The 92,320 polling stations across the country were open from 8am to 5pm. 

Political heavyweights and entertainment figures turned heads as they joined queues to vote. 

Prachachart Party leader Wan Muhamad Noor Matha marked his ballot in Yala, Jongchai Thiangtham of Bhumjaithai in Suphan Buri’s Sri Prachan district, and veteran Democrat figure Siriwan “Mae Liang Tik” Prasjaksattru in Phrae’s Rong Kwang district. 

Chaiya Mitrachai, a star of likay, the traditional Thai opera, registered his vote in Angthong, and movie star Urasaya “Yaya” Sperbund did the same in her hometown, Pattaya.