ON WEDNESDAY morning the Asia Foundation released and discussed the results of a comprehensive face to face survey of national attitudes towards democracy and amendments to the current constitution.
The audience at the launch at the Dusit Thani hotel, was an even spread of academics, civil servants, political activists, journalists and diplomats.
The event was timely. At 9am local time, Thailand's parliament opened a discussion on amending the constitution – a contentious charter drawn up by conservatives largely handpicked by the military-appointed government then in power in 2007.
The constitution was put to a referendum which saw it being passed nationally – but soundly rejected in the north east, reinforcing the notion of Thailand's geo-political divide.
The Asia Foundation survey threw up some interesting results which it may behoove MPs in parliament – and other powerful players in the current dynamic – to consider.
As Asia Foundation country representative Dr James Klein observed, the results show a "very deep and sophisticated understanding of democracy."
Respondents resoundingly rejected appointed Senators or MPs – a snub to the "New Politics" espoused by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) which is opposing amendments to the constitution.
But respondents also opposed amendments to the controversial Article 237, which makes it easy for a political party to be dissolved for the transgression of individuals.
That's because Thais want corrupt politicians held accountable. Indeed 69 per cent of respondents said convictions against politicians should be allowed to stand.
"Thais have become tired and less tolerant of the culture of impunity of powerful elites," noted Asia Foundation's Tim Meisburger.
Independent institutions generally fared badly, with the courts coming out with the highest credibility and the police with the lowest by far.
As much as 81 per cent of respondents saw the media as biased. The Election Commission did not come out with flying colours either.
Forty-six per cent of respondents saw democracy as rule of the majority. But 52 per cent saw it necessary to compromise with minorities.
Also significantly, most agreed that despite dissonance and conflict, democracy is the best form of governance. Interestingly though, 30 per cent said authoritarian rule in some circumstances could be condoned.
The army's popularity however has sagged since 2002, when a King Prajadhipok Institute survey pegged it at 94 per cent.
The Asia Foundation survey returned a figure of 62 per cent believing the military is an important institution – but 34 per cent saying it has too big a role in politics today.
The constitution amendment issue is a deeply absorbing one.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has conceded that it is not much point having another election under this constitution.
A majority of the Asia Foundation respondents said they would like the amendments ratified in a national referendum. Political observers are keenly watching the process.