Conspicuous by her absence
The Bangkok governor campaign is being seen as the quietest for a very long time - Military chiefs are furiously compiling their promotions lists, aware there will be far fewer generals this year - Polls are dancing to a new tune after the dismal display in the 2011 general election
The race for Bangkok governor is being fought hard in the opinion polls, but on the ground the canvassing activities have gone quieter than usual in some key battlegrounds.
Sudarat: Too preoccupied
As the candidates of the main political parties battle it out for top spot in the popularity surveys _ in which the Pheu Thai Party's man Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen has persistently held the lead _ some familiar faces in the Bangkok political scene are noticeable by their absence.
In particular, one of those missing from the campaign trail is Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, the senior politician most Pheu Thai MPs in Bangkok listen to and respect.
Of late, Khunying Sudarat has been keeping busy with non-political engagements and says her preoccupation lies with her new-found passion, which is to preserve Buddhism.
The former deputy premier has been travelling back and forth on a pilgrimage to restore the birthplace of the Lord Buddha at Lumbini in Nepal.
A source close to Khunying Sudarat said the politician has been organising pah pa and kathin events to raise funds for the restoration of the Lumbini memorial.
The restoration, according to some believers, alludes to creating a ''bridge'' for religious devotees who believe that preserving the Lord Buddha's birthplace will lead them on a path of merit to salvation.
Khunying Sudarat has used her Facebook account to communicate with supporters and impart knowledge about Buddhism.
The source said Khunying Sudarat had to take time off from politics as she was running a tight schedule, leaving her no time to give Pol Gen Pongsapat a hand in the election campaign.
Some campaign staff of rival parties have observed Pheu Thai politicians based in some Bangkok districts are not very active in aiding Pongsapat's election campaigning.
Local leaders and MPs form a vital part in helping a candidate to get acquainted with voters in their respective constituencies.
As Khunying Sudarat wields influence over many Pheu Thai MPs, her active participation in poll preparations for the ruling party was expected, said the source.
In a number of neighbourhoods in Don Muang district, the usually boisterous election atmosphere is rarely seen, especially when compared to previous governor polls.
The parading of candidates on election campaign trucks and the blaring of loudspeakers to introduce the candidates is not being seen as often as before.
Some estate housing tenants have remarked the current governor poll is the quietest contest they have seen in a very long time.
Sukumpol calls for shake-up lists
The military reshuffle will likely come early this year as Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat has ordered the chiefs of the armed forces to hand him their shake-up lists this week.
The minister wants to finish everything by early March in the hope of having the military promotions ready in April.
Sukumpol: A military quick-step
The rush is inviting speculation that the minister needs plenty of time to negotiate with the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, the army, the navy and the air force over the transfers of their personnel and, especially, the promotions of some senior officers and replacements for those going into mandatory retirement later this year.
Among the important posts lined up for the reshuffle is the 4th Army chief, who oversees military units in the South.
A successor is being nominated to replace incumbent chief Lt Gen Udomchai Thamsarorat who is expected to be promoted to full general six months before his retirement at the end of September.
Candidates may include Lt Gen Udomchai's deputies or senior officers from the 1st Army or the army headquarters in Bangkok.
There will also be a changing of the guard at the top in the 3rd Army, which supervises the North. Its incumbent chief Lt Gen Chanchainarong Thanarun is slated for promotion to full general before retiring in September.
Third Corps commander Pricha Chan-ocha, the younger brother of army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, is reportedly tipped to succeed Lt Gen Chanchainarong.
Also to be mulled over in the reshuffle is the post of chief of the 2nd Cavalry Division (Royal Guard), a key battle unit which played an important role in the last coup d'etat.
Maj Gen Surasak Bunsiri, who has been in charge of the division for three years, looks set to exit the post due to his likely promotion to the rank of lieutenant general.
It is expected that Maj Gen Achanai Sisuk, chief of the 3rd Cavalry Division based in Khon Kaen, will return to head the 2nd Cavalry Division where he was previously based.
In this year's reshuffle, the number of officers poised for promotion to full general is expected to be fewer than last year.
The promotion is said to be a reward given to certain officers in the armed forces. In particular, ACM Sukumpol reportedly wants to strengthen ties with armed force chiefs through the granting of promotions.
However, promotion to full general comes with a heavy price tag. The Defence Ministry paid an extra 23 million baht a month in salary adjustments for the new generals it promoted last year.
As a result, the armed forces will seek to limit the number of officers to be made generals this year.
Public wary of opinion polls
When exit polls predicted that the Pheu Thai Party would seize victory in Bangkok in the 2011 general election, public scepticism soon followed when they were proved wrong.
When the initial vote count was completed a few hours after the polls closed, it turned out the Democrats had won 23 seats, leaving Pheu Thai with 10.
The reliability of opinion surveys would not be regarded so dubiously today had the exit poll results not been ''so wrong''.
Noppadon: A matter of opinion
The exit polls by Abac Poll reported Pheu Thai would win 28 seats and the Democrats would win five. Dusit Poll and Bangkok Poll reported similar findings.
Opinion polls heading into the March3 governor election depict Pheu Thai's candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen as a clear favourite to win.
He has outshone former governor and Democrat contender MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra in some opinion surveys since the race began.
In the latest findings released on Feb 12 by Abac Poll, Pol Gen Pongsapat was leading the Democrat contender by 6%, down from nearly 10% in an earlier survey.
Even so, the Democrats and their supporters are not happy.
Neither are little-known governor candidates who suspect the pollsters are ''leading'' the opinion of the general public rather than reporting the statistics and want all opinion surveys banned.
Abac Poll director Noppadon Kannika acknowledges the criticism but remains adamant that the findings are based on acceptable sampling data.
Abac Poll has conducted a public opinion poll on the Bangkok governor election every weekend since the race started. The former chief of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board is leading in approval ratings in all sample groups in all constituencies.
The data are collected by university students who work under strict supervision of researchers. The sample size for each round of survey is 3,631, the pollster said.
Mr Noppadon has not forgotten the embarassment of the 2011 election and defends the credibility of his poll.
According to him, the exit poll in the previous general election had a 5% margin of error. Given gaps of less than 5,000 votes between Pheu Thai and Democrat candidates in the 2011 election, the mistake was acceptable, he said.
However, in its opinion polls leading up to the March 3 election, Abac Poll has increased the margin of error from 5% to 7%.
Opinion polls always have margins of error and Abac Poll seems to be banking on it to spare itself from another possible statistical faux pas.