Thailand experienced a devastating national tragedy in early October when a former police officer murdered more than 30 people, the most of whom were children, in a daycare centre in the country’s remote northeast.
The massacre has sparked concerns about gun ownership and access to mental health treatments in the country, adding to the country’s anxiety levels, which have risen significantly over the last decade.
The percentage of people in Thailand who indicated they were worried for most of the previous day more than quadrupled between 2012 (18%) and 2019 (36%), then increased again after the COVID-19 epidemic, to 50% in 2020 and 46% in 2021. Similarly, the number of people who reported a lot of stress the day before increased from 17% in 2012 to 44% in 2021.
Notably, the growth in negative emotions like worry and stress in Thailand is part of a larger global trend detailed in Gallup’s new book, Blind Spot. The percentage of persons who were worried for most of the previous day increased from 32% in 2012 to 42% in 2021 across all nations surveyed for the Gallup World Poll.
However, Thailand’s 28-percentage-point increase places it among the five countries in the world where this figure climbed the greatest over that time period, following Afghanistan, Mali, Bangladesh, and Venezuela.
Thailand’s economic disparity has risen in recent years, with household incomes at the bottom of the country’s income distribution dropping. According to Gallup data, anxiety increased far higher among Thais in the country’s poorest income group (17% to 55%) than among those in the richest income group (23% to 38%) between 2012 and 2021.
People in Thailand have lost faith in the government and the criminal justice system.
Thailand has likewise had a growing crisis of trust in national institutions in recent years. Thais’ trust in their country’s national government, judicial system, and local police all fell to near-record lows in 2021, following a fall that began in 2018.
These tendencies reflect a lack of confidence in the country’s democratic procedures and rule of law, which may make a crime like the mass murders even more terrifying.
Despite the fact that confidence in the country’s political institutions has declined dramatically across all Thai adults over the last decade, Gallup’s 2021 findings reveal that it is especially low among younger individuals.
Thais aged 15 to 49 had 39% faith in the military, compared to 50% among those aged 50 and older. Similarly, 19% of those aged 15 to 49 have faith in the national government, compared to 34% of those aged 50 and up.
The tragedy in Thailand has added public safety issues to the list of concerns that Thais already have about the country’s economic and political situation.
Though the pandemic most likely increased levels of concern and stress among the Thai people, Gallup data reveal that rises began well before the pandemic.
The lack of trust in the government, police, and courts suggests that Thais will continue to vent their dissatisfaction through political instability, particularly ahead of the national elections scheduled for early 2023.