6 June 2024

Controversy has erupted over the size – and sheer proliferation – of campaign posters on Bangkok streets, as city governor hopefuls vie for voter attention ahead of the May 22 election — the first since 2013.

Early-bird candidates were erecting their campaign posters at prominent spots, mainly roadside power poles, even before getting their candidacy numbers. The larger the posters and the greater their number, the better.

Complaints that the poster campaigns were blocking city thoroughfares quickly began flowing on the social media accounts of pedestrians and cyclists.

Some even declared they would vote for the candidate who had the fewest posters and banners blocking sidewalks.

More obstacles for pedestrians

Observers point out that the political banners are adding to existing obstacles on Bangkok’s already pedestrian-unfriendly pavements.

Controversy heightened when the video of a man pushing a woman in a wheelchair on a Bangkok sidewalk went viral. The footage showed the pair apparently being forced onto the road to avoid a large campaign poster blocking the way.

In response to criticism, outgoing Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang admitted that his campaign posters had blocked sidewalks in some areas, but blamed the problem on the company he had hired to install the banners.

Aswin, who stepped down late last month to run for another term in office, said he had arranged for the obstructive posters to be removed or “moved to a proper spot”. His new campaign banners would be much smaller to avoid hindering pedestrians, he added.

According to the law, candidates are permitted to display campaign signs in two sizes – up to 30×42 centimeters and up to 130x245cm. The limit on the number of smaller posters is no more than 10 times the number of polling stations, and the larger ones no more than five times.

There are more than 6,800 polling stations in the city, which has 4.37 million eligible voters.

The Cleanliness and Orderliness Maintenance Act prohibits the installation of public signs that obstruct traffic or visibility, an offense that carries a fine of up to Bt5,000.

Record-high 31 candidates apply for Bangkok gubernatorial election

‘Slim’ alternative praised

Chadchart Sittipunt, the former transport minister who is topping opinion polls, has been praised for his innovative “slim” posters barely wider than the power poles to which they are attached.

However, he brushed off the praise, saying he was not the first candidate to use skinny posters, adding there were more important things for voters to focus on.

“Campaign posters are not as important as [candidates’] content and policy platforms,” he said.

Chadchart is running as an independent although he is widely believed to enjoy backing from the opposition Pheu Thai Party, which has opted not to field a gubernatorial candidate but is contesting all 50 seats on the city council.

Going online to reduce waste

Former senator Rosana Tositrakul, another prominent candidate, has eschewed a citywide poster campaign in her push to cut the amount of waste in Bangkok.

Instead, she is campaigning via social media, asking her supporters to share her 10 digital campaign posters online.

Rosana, who was elected as a Bangkok senator in 2008 with the highest vote of 740,000, said her campaign posters were handmade from recycled waste. Only 10 would be erected around the city to promote her policy platform, she added.

“I would like to apologize to my supporters for having such a small number of posters [but] I don’t want to create more waste. [And] I don’t want my posters to block the path for pedestrians,” Rosana said.

However, for many people, campaign posters are not a waste at all.

Vinyl banners have been turned into colorful, trendy tote bags. The wood and plastic components of campaign posters are also in high demand among scavengers and squatters. Many of the materials have been scavenged even before the voting begins.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk