Thai PM candidate visits lucky locales to boost his chances

Feb 13, 2023, 3:10 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2023, 6:44 am
Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan greets supporters during a pre-election campaign ...

Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan greets supporters during a pre-election campaign for the upcoming general election in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. Prawit hit the campaign trail on Tuesday at a series of locations in Bangkok as he seeks popular support for the prime minister’s job. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK (AP) — The campaign for this year’s general election in Thailand has not yet officially begun, but aspirants for the prime minister’s job are already angling for auspicious photo ops.

If symbolism won elections, one of the main contenders, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, would be a shoo-in.

Prawit hit the campaign trail on Tuesday at a series of locations in Bangkok chosen to enlist fate on his side.

The former general is nicknamed “Big Pom.” On a hot afternoon he visited temples in the capital’s Pom Prap Sattru Phai district, which translates as “Pom destroys all enemies,” and prayed for success.

He ended his tour at a well-known old fort whose name can be loosely translated as “Pom of great power.”

Superstition and the search for lucky signs play a significant part in Thai politics.

The general election — the first since 2019 — is expected to be called within weeks, with voting most likely in May.

Prawit has already declared his candidacy for the top post under the banner of Palang Pracharath, the current main governing party. Incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has joined a new group, the United Thai Nation Party. Also expected to run, and pose a formidable challenge, is Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by an army coup in 2006.

In a brief talk with reporters, Prawit noted that he had chosen to launch his push with Bangkok voters on Valentine’s Day.

“Today is Valentine’s Day so I want love from Bangkokians. We can then love one another, move on beyond conflicts so that we can work on getting rid of poverty and drought in our country,” he said.

A December national poll by the National Institute of Development and Administration suggests the love may be unrequited. Despite his reputation for being a wily operator, his party languished at seventh place in popularity, while Big Pom didn’t make the top 10 choices for prime minister.

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Thai PM candidate visits lucky locales to boost his chances