Controversial posters upset diplomats

News

Thai Rak Thai has ordered the removal of some election posters after foreign diplomats were believed to be upset by the appearance on the posters of several world leaders, including US President George W Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Suranand Vejjajiva, a spokesman for the party, said Thai Rak Thai had to order the removal of the offending posters after complaints from officials of several countries whose leaders appear side by side with its candidates.

Orathai Thanjaro, a Thai Rak Thai candidate for Bangkok’s Bang Rak constituency, was at the centre of the controversy with campaign posters featuring her shaking hands with Koizumi and Wen.

The streets of Silom and Samphanthawong roads were littered with election posters featuring the top East Asian leaders. In Nonthaburi’s Bang Buathong district, Thai Rak Thai candidate Apiwan Wiriyachai raised eyebrows by using election posters featuring Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and several world leaders, including Bush, at the Apec summit.

Suranand Vejjajiva, a spokesman for the party, said he had received complaints from unnamed parties who were upset by the appearance of world leaders on the campaign posters, especially those of Orathai.

Thai Rak Thai ordered the campaign posters removed, he said, but they were still clearly visible yesterday in Silom.

“The party didn’t encourage the candidates to use these inappropriate photos on the posters,” he said, adding that the posters might affect the reputation of those world leaders.

He said party executives had not seen the posters before they were erected, but he insisted that Orathai’s team probably just wanted to highlight the candidate’s background as secretary of the Commerce Ministry.

The party has not yet received any official complaints from embassies, he added.

A Japanese official said Tokyo was unhappy that Koizumi was featured in such a way.

Thai election laws do not prohibit the use of pictures of world leaders for election campaigning but in this case, the diplomatic community deemed the action inappropriate.

“The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo was offended by her [Orathai’s] poster,” said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified.

Orathai claimed that she had obtained permission from the Japanese prime minister, who was pictured in November during the Asean summit in Vientiane.

“It [Orathai’s explanation] is groundless,” the diplomat said.

The Thai public was led to believe that Koizumi endorsed her candidacy in the February 6 election, he said.

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun featured an article on page two of yesterday’s edition with a headline that said Koizumi was popular in Thailand. It said Orathai had used the photo because she received permission to do so from Koizumi.

In the 2001 general election, there were no complaints when former prime minister Chuan Leekpai was depicted on a campaign poster with several world leaders.

Naruepat Phoochareonsil, 24, a resident of Bang Rak constituency, said he felt neutral over the poster of Orathai with the Japanese and Chinese leaders as he understood that it was only intended to show her achievements.

But he expressed concern that the controversial posters might mislead some lower-educated voters into being impressed with the candidate’s high international profile.

Published on January 20, 2005

Thanyaporn

Kunakornpaiboonsiri

The Nation