A government plan to encourage Thais to switch from squat toilets to Western-style seated thrones has been poo-pooed by respondents to a Bangkok Post survey.
The survey found that many people prefer the squat models.
Under the Public Health Ministry's plan endorsed by the cabinet last Tuesday, all public toilets would be replaced with seated ones within three years.
The ministry says the use of squat toilets contributes to degenerative joint disease.
About 90% of Thai households use squat toilets, and about 6 million people nationwide suffer from the disease, according to ministry figures.
The ministry said it would promote the use of sitting toilets across the country to help deal with an ageing population.
A public toilet committee will be set up to implement the plan. Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi will serve as committee chairman.
The Bangkok Post interviewed members of the public, housekeepers and academics about the new toilet policy, and many of them doubted if the seated toilets would suit Thai users.
Some people, especially women, said they would squat on the toilet seat anyway because they thought it was unhygienic to share seats with other people at public loos.
Jomkwan Kongchoke, an office worker, said: "I will never sit on a public toilet seat unless I feel it's really clean. But I don't think public toilets are clean."
She said she usually squatted on seated toilets.
A woman who gave her name only as Lek said she was not impressed by hygiene standards at public toilets.
"Most of the seated toilets at public places are dirty, possibly due to improper use and cleaning," she said.
Chonlatee Sinhakarn, a petrol station owner, said he did not agree with the idea of replacing all squat toilets with seated ones because it will place a financial burden on the business sector.
"No one would help us pay for the equipment and maintenance," he said, adding that petrol stations would need to change the water supply system if they are going to install a seated toilet with a flushing system.
This would cost a lot of money, he said. "Moreover, there is no guarantee that users will like [seated toilets]," Mr Chonlatee said.
Mr Chonlatee had installed one seated toilet at a customer lavatory at his petrol station, but he says customers regularly misuse it by squatting on the toilet seat.
"We try to keep it clean but it's difficult if users do not help us," he said.
Suthi Chanri, a 50-year-old housekeeper at the Bangkok Post building, said squat toilets are much easier to clean than the seated version.
"The seated toilet is complicated and has many parts that I have to clean. I spend only one minute cleaning the squat loo and need over three minutes to clean the seated one," Ms Suthi said.
"In terms of cleaning, I prefer the squat loo, but as a user, a seated toilet is much more comfortable."
Atch Sreshthaputra, an architecture expert at Chulalongkorn University's Department of Architecture, said public seated toilets had brought problems to owners because of their higher maintenance costs.
Mr Atch suggested that public toilets include both squatting and sitting toilets to offer a choice.
According to the 2005 Buildings Accessible and Usable for the Elderly and Physically Disabled Act, at least one seated toilet must be provided in public buildings and fuel stations.
Deputy Public Health Minister Cholanan Srikaew, who is pushing for the seated toilet scheme, said the plan was not only about changing the type of toilet people used but also about improving sanitary conditions and safety at public toilets.
He said the ministry's previous seated-toilet campaign was not successful because of a lack of participation by stakeholders.
This time several parties will be asked to participate, Mr Cholanan said.
Regarding the problem of improper use of seated toilets, Mr Cholanan said the toilet committee would discuss measures to encourage people to use seated toilets properly.
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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat