February 03, 2014 00:00 By VEENA THOOPKRAJAE
THAIS have been making political statements on their social media sites lately, but the phenomenon reached new heights yesterday.
Despite the low vote turnout and election obstacles, one could not assume that yesterday’s ballot was not much anticipated. As it turned out, celebrities and leading figures in society decided to make a “voting” statement of their own on social networks. Indeed, it is unprecedented how everyone has had something to say about this election and wants to be heard. What was missing prior to the election yesterday was TV commercials featuring celebrities campaigning for the poll. They used to be the faces of an election, calling all Thais to exercise their right. This time around not all of them sung the same tune. A number of celebrities used their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts to tell their fans they decided not to vote, or that they went to vote, or could not vote. A clear statement from actress Sinjai Plengpanich said on her Instagram as she posted a photo with her husband Chatchai and said they were going for a “picnic” – which represented a mass gathering of anti-government protesters. Celebrity teacher Kitmanoch “Khru Lilly” Rojanasab posted on Instagram and Facebook that ‘he’ loves democracy dearly but would not vote this time. Filmmaker Yongyoot Thongkongtoon also posted on Facebook that he thought it through and would not to vote this time. Actress Pattarida “Tangmo” Patcharaveerapong said she was not available for an election, as she had to take care of her pet dog. Scenario executive Takolkiat “Boy” Viravan posted on social media that he could not cast a vote as he was not in the country. “I am worried for Thailand’s situation,” he said. Noticeably, there were fewer of photos of actors and actresses casting ballots compared to previous general elections. But still those who did vote also went to social media to spread the news. Rocker Seksan “Sek Loso” Sukpimai cast a vote and uploaded his photo to his fans on Facebook. “I exercise my vote as always and I respect all the voices of all Thai people,” he wrote. Oak says ‘Respect my vote’
Payungsak Charnduayida, an executive of Voice TV, also posted a ballot-casting photo on Facebook.
Actor Karoonpon Thiensuwan posted on Instagram that he would surely go out to vote as he wanted to do the democratic thing. Filmmaker Taona Sonakul said on Facebook that she was glad to successfully cast a vote.
“I am so happy to vote for Pheu Thai for the first time so that PM Yingluck can remain our premier.”
Most politicians made clear statements, many informing the public before via social media. Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva posted on Election Day eve that he would not exercise his right and so did the party’s deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij.
Likewise, Thaksin’s son Panthongtae, or “Oak”, posted a call on Facebook for all Thais to exercise their right. Oak went to vote yesterday in a T-shirt with a statement that said “Respect my Vote”.
Updates were common among other social media users. People who went and cast their votes tweeted about exercising their right. Facebook statuses were flooded with both pro-election and “no show” groups.
In the separate moves, the military chiefs cast ballots as the election went ahead with division between opponents and supporters of the poll.
Top brass such as Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Supreme Commander General Thanasak Pratimapakorn, former PM General Suchinda Kraprayoon and former Defence Minister General Viroj Saengsanit.
Army Chief Prayuth |cast his ballot at Sam Sen Nai in Phaya Thai, held at a polling station under the Rama 6 expressway – while guarded by 20 security officials.
Prayuth declined to answer questions from reporters, cutting them short saying “Today is election date.” As he rushed out of the venue, the Army chief forgot and left his national ID card.