This week, Thailand’s military-installed prime minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, crooned a love song and boasted of his government’s achievements during an official visit to the country’s northeast ahead of the March 24 election. Prayut’s tone reflects the fact that he is in full campaign mode ahead of much-anticipated elections, the first since he took power in a May 2014 coup.
Prayut is no stranger to grand gestures designed to boost his image. Indeed, his efforts in this vein during his premiership, whether through antics in press conferences or in regular broadcasts directly to the Thai people, have often been the subject of media headlines, which have cast doubt on Prayut’s initial claim that he had any political ambitions after the 2014 coup.
Those efforts have intensified in the lead-up to the elections over the past few months, where the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), seen as serving as a proxy for the military’s interests, has nominated Prayuth as its candidate for prime minister and hopes it can form a government, and the premier looks to stay in power. This month, Prayut has been on a tour in several Thai provinces, which observers have noted in part follows the trail of PPRP pre-election campaign rallies.
On Wednesday, Prayut appeared before a crowd of thousands as part of that trip. While that may nominally be part of his official duties, the style of the visit closely resembles what many people would consider campaigning, and he has been carrying out such activities for several months.
With just weeks left before Thailand goes to the polls, it is little surprise that Prayut has been in full campaign mode. Indeed, one can expect more of such events as the jostling for influence continues ahead of a much-anticipated election.
By the Associated Press, with additional reporting from The Diplomat.