11 July 2024

PR teams of top prime ministerial candidates have gone into overdrive to woo voters in the final week before Thailand votes in Sunday’s general election. 

Opinion survey results released last week show the most popular PM candidate is Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat, followed by Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra and incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is running under United Thai Nation Party’s banner.

The PR machines of all three parties have also released videos touting the alleged virtues of their candidates for Thailand’s next leader.

While it is Parliament rather than voters who will choose the next PM, the PM candidates are acting as flagships to drum up support for their parties in Sunday’s vote.

Paetongtarn: Top Pheu Thai choice?

Though it has three PM candidates, Pheu Thai appears to be rallying behind 36-year-old Paetongtarn, the youngest daughter of the party’s patriarch, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. At least that’s the impression given by its documentary-style video released on May 7.

Titled “The Candidate: Paetongtarn”, the 18-minute mini-documentary traces her journey from daughter of a popular prime minister to candidate contesting for the top job in politics.

The video opens with an emcee introducing Paetongtarn and her family pedigree at a large rally: “Ladies and gentlemen. Grandpa Thaksin Shinawatra’s youngest daughter. Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s niece.”

The film portrays Paetongtarn as a confident business executive as well as an ambitious politician with strong potential to become a government leader.

Paetongtarn is head of the Pheu Thai Family and also the party’s chief advisor on innovation and participation. She is also back on the campaign trail after giving birth to her second child, a boy, just two weeks before election day.

The video also features key Pheu Thai figures including party leader Cholnan Srikaew and his deputy Phumtham Wechayachai, who are full of praise for Paetongtarn.

Phumtham says she has Thaksin’s “political DNA”, while Cholnan applauds her leadership skills.

Asked in the documentary how Thailand will change if she becomes prime minister, Paetongtarn responds with a smile: “The country will be colorful.”

She adds: “Thailand will have a prime minister who is serious about her work and prioritizes people’s problems. I will have a good team and I am sincere with people.”

This clip was released after Pita overtook Paetongtarn in popularity surveys. Pheu Thai and Move Forward have overlapping support bases.

Softer side of General Prayut 

The United Thai Nation Party has released a video clip seeking to portray the softer side of General Prayut, its No 1 PM candidate.

Released on May 5, the 11-minute video titled “Talk with Uncle” features Prayut recounting a few previously untold personal stories with a chuckle.

In the clip he tells viewers about how he got his name, what prompted him to run away from home when he was a teenager and why he joined the Songkran party in Bangkok’s Khao San area last month. He also discusses his favorite English football team, his fondness for Korean TV soaps (especially those about soldiers), and his love for his wife, Assoc Professor Naraporn.

Prayut says he likes making his wife laugh, but sometimes suffers the silent treatment from her when he forgets important occasions like her birthday or their anniversary. However, he said he is always quick to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it” when he realizes his lapse.

Turning to a more serious subject, Prayut said he decided to stage the May 2014 coup because he did not want to see people killed or injured during the prior street protests.

“I made this decision without consulting anyone. I thought it over again and again, suffering sleepless nights for months,” he said.

On Sunday, United Thai Nation released a separate video that appears to attack the election manifesto of Move Forward, whose campaign motto is “Thailand will never be the same again”.

The 2.45-minute clip paints a gloomy future for Thailand if certain changes are made. Retired civil servants are depicted as beggars due to big cuts in their pensions. Public property is shown defaced due to excessive freedoms, and borders are depicted as unprotected due to the abolition of conscription.

The video ends with a question: “Do you really want to see a Thailand that is no longer the same?”. That parting shot has drawn heavy attacks from Move Forward supporters.

Pita: ‘Let’s change Thailand together’ 

Move Forward, whose sole PM candidate Pita has surged to the top of recent polls, released a video clip on May 6 featuring its leader Pita and other key party figures.

The 2.34-minute clip, titled “Vote Move Forward and Change Thailand Together”, sees party figures talking about their common dream of changing the country into a “society we want to get”.

They point to their strong determination to achieve their goals despite the indifference of many people and negative perceptions towards them.

“We were crazy and clashed [with conservative forces] on every issue over the past four years. We dared to expose and fight against injustice, corruption and monopoly to change the structure of society for equality,” the clip says.

“This is because we believe that passionate people like us still have some hope in this country.”

The clip wraps up with Pita, wearing a fashionable pair of sunglasses, saying: “Vote Move Forward and change Thailand together.” Standing in the rear of a moving campaign truck, he then turns back and winks at the audience.

The clip closes with the party’s campaign slogan: “Vote for Move Forward and Thailand will Never be the Same Again.”

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk