Top 10 strange moments of Thailand's 2011 general election

Top 10 strange moments of Thailand's 2011 general election

A look back at some of the best political gaffes and oddities that took place in the run-up to the vote

Given the tumultuous events of the last few years, this Thai election was one of the most heated election campaigns in recent history.

As with every election campaign, all 40 political parties prowled around the country to woo voters every possible way they could.

And since this is Thailand, the run-up has its own rules and, much to our enjoyment, many laughable moments.

Here are the top 10 noteworthy campaign oddities of the 2011 Thailand general election.

10. Yingluck and her ‘customers’

Yingluk ShinawatraTaking a final campaign visit to the northeast this week, Yingluk Shinawatra makes an appearance in Buriram. It was an open secret that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra would send his youngest sister Yingluck into the race to lead the Pheu Thai Party.

And much to the disgust of opponents, the former business executive did indeed throw her hat into the ring.

During a presentation on May 16, she made a very good impression. Even the questions in English were answered confidently and flawlessly. With the exception of one little slip-up (see video), when she referred to the electorate as her “customers.”

One could argue that she is still warming up to politics, having just come from the business sector. And hey, everybody gets their target audience mixed up from time to time.


9. Sophon and the Panda

PandaLin Ping already has her own reality show so making the transition into politics was a breeze for the celebrity panda. Despite the nation's political divisions, there's one thing that warms the heart of nearly all Thais (with the notable exception of this author): Lin Ping, the panda born in Chiang Mai Zoo.

Over-exposed already thanks to her own 24-hour TV channel, Lin Ping made an appearance on this poster of MP candidate Sophon Damnui of the Chart Pattana Puea Pandin Party (Development of the Nation’s Land Party).

Coincidentally, Sophon is the director of the Zoological Park Organization, which overlooks all zoos in the country.

Best of all, he's promised to get Lin Ping to visit Bangkok if elected. With such a promise, what can go wrong?


8. Abhisit versus the football



Incumbent Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is known for being an avid Newcastle United fan. After all, just like the prime minister himself, the English Premier League club had some turbulent moments in recent years.

While out campaigning, the Oxford-educated premier didn’t pass up the opportunity to put on a pair of football boots and play a game with some young potential voters.

But things literally turned upside down when he made a cross-move and passed the ball only to fall down. Luckily, the PM was up and running again just moments after the incident.

Some say this was the literal stumbling block of his election campaign.

More on CNNGo: Weighing in on the Thai election results


7. Paradorn and the forgotten vote

Paradorn SrichaphanIn April, retired tennis star Paradorn Srichaphan announced plans to run for parliament, saying he wanted to boost sport in the country. Staying with sports, having former athletes run for your ballot is another oft-used trick to lure voters.

The Chart Pattana Puea Pandin Party (yes, them again) hired a whole all-star team of former champions, among them retired tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan.

The problem though was that Paradorn wasn’t even allowed on the ballot. Why? Because he "forgot" to vote in the last general election in 2007.

Since voting is compulsory in Thailand, he not only lost his right to cast a ballot this time around, but also was barred from running for MP. Talk about an unforced error.


6. Bhumjaithai and the wife beaters

A couple of the Bhumjaithai (Thai Pride) Party's election posters certainly got people talking.

The two different shots depict a tennis player and a football player with a slogan that translates into: “If you want to take care of your wife (or your family), you have to strike!”

Strike what? Or who? Are they promoting domestic abuse?

Not really.  

Despite the odd choice of words, the party is actually promoting their sport-centered policies, like more financial support for sport associations and building sport centers nationwide. This all falls under their theme, “Fight to become rich!”

5. Chuwit Kamolvisit's entire campaign 

ChuwitChuwit waves as he tours Bangkok red-light district Patpong as part of his electoral campaign. If there’s one underdog of the election who still somehow manages to hog the headlines, it’s got to be Chuwit Kamolvisit.

The former massage parlor tycoon (some international media have even referred to him as a "super pimp") and now self-proclaimed “Mr. Clean” is, following runs in 2004 and 2006, taking another shot at political power.

This time he's running under the new Rak Prathet Thai (Love Thailand) Party. His aim: to join the opposition and crack down on corruption.

His in-your-face election posters (e.g. “Politicians are like diapers, the more often they’re changed, the better”) are certainly a breath of fresh air.

And given how much he enjoys taking "baths," Chuwit is probably one of the cleanest men in the whole kingdom. 


4. Pheu Thai and the too-small-logo

BallotPheu Thai countered the ballot blunder by printing signs to remind its supporters how to vote. When Thais overseas received their ballot papers in advance, some reportedly had difficultly making their cross in the right place.

At least those who wanted to vote for the opposition Pheu Thai Party (For Thais).

That's because they had to really squint to actually find the Pheu Thai logo, whereas the other parties’ logos were perfectly visible.

Whether this was deliberate or a screw-up cannot be determined. Nevertheless the Pheu Thai Party hastily made new posters to make sure their supporters would not mess up their vote.


3. Don't vote for animals

Vote noOne of the PAD's 'Vote No' posters, reminding the Thai electorate that politics has no shortage of monkey business. The ultra-nationalist "People’s Alliance for Democracy" are ironically against the elections –- well, this one at least -- claiming that the whole political system is corrupt to the core.

In order to win over supporters for their "campaign," they have plastered posters everywhere urging the people to "not let these animals into the parliament.” The posters depict politicians as wild dogs, monkeys, buffaloes, tigers and so on.

There’s one small logical oversight: these animals have more backbone than most politicians. Even the monitor lizard.


2. Sanan and his pink shoes

Pink converseIt takes a confident man to pull off pink sneakers. According to the Chart Thai Pattana (Thai Nation Development) Party, reconciliation only comes in pink, the color of the party.

Hence its leader, Sanan Kajornprasart, went for a fully pink outfit, right down to his snazzy pink sneakers. (Click here to see a video of him rocking his outfit.)

The story behind this odd wardrobe choice is that the party actually bought pink shoes for everybody to wear on the campaign trail, but only its leader wore them more than once.

Throw in a cool hat and some shades (again, see video) and you have the best-dressed dude of the entire Thai election campaign. 


1. “Rock the Vote” -- Thai Style



Ending on a high note, the election commission has produced not one, but two music videos with numerous famous singers to convince people to go to the polls coming this Sunday.

While the pop version is aimed at the young urban crowd, urging them put their electronic devices down long enough to cast a ballot, the top spot goes to this folksier version with complete instructions on how to vote.

So, enjoy this video and do as these lovely ladies say: GO VOTE!

 

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist based mainly in Hamburg, Germany but is currently in Bangkok covering the elections and its aftermath. After working briefly for a Bangkok-based English newspaper, he burned off all bridges and started his own political blog in 2010, only then to join the Thailand-centric group blog Siam Voices at AsianCorrespondent.com.
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