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ANALYSIS: Red-faced junta can’t woo people with borrowed slogans

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WHILE THE two military coups that occurred in the past 12 years have tried to eliminate the so-called Thaksin regime from the Thai political landscape, the junta’s latest campaign to promote General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s administration has only brought the influential tycoon back into the political discourse.

“Four years of repairs, four years of construction” was the catchy tagline of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party in 2005 when Thaksin Shinawatra was running for his second term as prime minister. The phrase became the centre of attention last week when it featured in a political campaign run by an Army Facebook page.
“Four years of repairs, four years of construction,” the post published on Tuesday read, with two hashtags in Thai and English #ReformTogether. 
It went viral on the Internet quickly after Thaksin’s son, Panthongtae Shinawatra, re-posted it on Twitter, asking sarcastically if his father had bought the Army’s Facebook page, a jibe at critics who accuse his father of using money to buy political support.
Other online satirical pages were quick to catch up and poke fun at the junta.
A Pheu Thai member, Anudith Nakornthap, said the incident only reflected Thai Rak Thai’s success and the confidence it was able to create among the public. The anti-Thaksin camp was now emulating the tagline, he said. 
This is not the first time the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has been called copycats. Staff deployment as well as government policies of the Prayut administration have also been seen to be similar to what Thaksin’s camp did during its time in power.

Comparison with Thaksin’s actions
Like Thaksin, Prayut also named Somkid Jatusripitak as deputy premier to oversee economic affairs. The Pracharat scheme covering housing for low-income earners and village funds are seen as rehashes of similar endeavours by Thaksin.
Despite efforts by the regime to erase the legacy of Thaksin and his parties, it has only succeeded in drawing more comparisons with its arch-rivals. Even worse, junta chief Prayut has been accused of plagiarism in the way he seems to mimic Thaksin – an ousted and yet still popular leader among large swaths of the population.
A poll conducted by the National Institute of Development Administration and released yesterday showed that the Thaksin-linked Pheu Thai Party remained the clear favourite to win the next general election, with 28.8 per cent of respondents backing it. The pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party was left behind with 20.3-per-cent backing.
Although Prayut was named the most popular candidate for post-election premier in the poll, with 20.7 per cent of the people surveyed, his popularity has been in continuous decline, from 38.6 per cent in March to 32.2 in May and 31.3 in July.
Political critic Sirote Klampaiboon reasoned that the junta’s much-criticised campaign slogan might have been created due to the impression that the junta had similar accomplishments to those of Thai Rak Thai and Pheu Thai, and hence it could ride the same bandwagon to success.
Sirote said it was hard to explain how the junta campaign could have adopted the same phrase as Thai Rak Thai used. He said the mistake shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
What’s more important than the tagline is the government “achievements” cited, the critic stressed.
“It’s not so straightforward,” he said. “They are trying to show that Prayut has solved many problems. But, in fact, those problems arose because of the rights violations under this regime. And yes, Prayut had to fix them, but it’s nothing they should be proud about.”
He added that the campaign offered only scant details about the measures and actions that solved immediate problems. However, people were looking for vision and policies to solve deeper issues such as poverty, he said.
“The key point is it wasn’t the campaign that gave Thaksin’s party a big edge. It’s about vision and confidence. People were confident that Thaksin had the vision and would be able to deliver what he promised,” Sirote said. “Prayut just doesn’t have that. No vision is seen in this campaign.”

Published : September 23, 2018