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Votes of Ethnic Northerners Worth Less than Half of Upper Central Thais?

 

The Bangkok Pundit, in partnership with thaidatapoints.com, has just published a column pointing out that the votes of ethnic Northerners in the government’s proposed political system are worth less than half of the votes of Upper Central Thais. While the constituency system provides approximate parity between size of population and proportion of constituency seats, the proposed party list system gives Upper Central Thais 24.4% of party list seats for 17.5% of the population and the North only 8.8% of party list seats for 16.0% of the population.

This must be an inadvertent mistake, for as the article points out, “If this proposal is implemented voters in the Upper Central Region will, in effect, count as 2.5 times more valuable than their fellow citizens in the North.

The ethnic minorities (chiefly mountain peoples and Lanna) effected by this disparity are, using Ethnologue, the Akha, the Bisu, the Blang, the Hmong Daw, the Hmong Njua, the Iu Mien, the Khon Mueang (Northern Thais), the Phrae Pwo Karen, the Pwo Northern Karen, the S’gaw Karen, the (Eastern) Kayah, the Khmu, the Khün, the Lahu, the Lahu Shi, the (Eastern) Lawa, the (Western) Lawa, the Lisu, the , the Lua’, the Mal, the Mlabri, the Mok, the Mpi, the Pale Palaung, the Pa’o, the Prai, the Pray 3, the Shan, the Tai Ya, the Wa, and the Yong. For a map of where these minorities live, see the Ethnologue map of Northern Thailand.

At the height of Thailand’s color wars, especially in 2013-2014, isolated claims were made by Bangkokians, which should not be seen as indicative of the general viewpoint, that the votes of rural or minority voters from the North or Northeast should be worth less than those of ethnic Central Thais because they were seen as “politically naïve”. However, no-one actually thought such views would be implemented, much less by a government whose stated aim is reconciliation, which needs to involve the both the socio-political order as well as tackle extreme income inequality, absolute poverty, and disparities in how ethnic minorities are portrayed and treated within Thai society.

In a similar inadvertent mistake, an additional disparity is that the Lower Northeast, including Buriram and Surin, has 22.4% of the party list seats for only 16.8% of the population. This therefore appears to actually benefit the Northern Khmer peoples of the Lower Northeast.

Finally, and somewhat bizarrely, the percent of party list seats of Lower Central Thais and of Upper Northeasterners are both approximately 3% less than what might be expected from the percent of population. In other words, Bangkokians are on a parity with the inhabitants of Kalasin in how much they are disadvantaged under the proposed system.

All this is hopefully a series of simple arithmetic mistakes and will no doubt shortly be remedied.

About the author:

John Draper

BA Mod Hist (Oxon), MA App Ling (Hons, University of Southern Queensland)
Project Officer, Isan Culture Maintenance and Revitalisation Program (ICMRP)
College of Local Administration (COLA)
Khon Kaen University

 

 

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