Anutin posters cause a stir

Anutin posters cause a stir

Pheu Thai wants Election Commission to look into 'propaganda' and who paid for it

A poster in Khon Kaen depicting Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is one of many put up at state-run health facilities around the country. (Photo: Rural Doctor Society)
A poster in Khon Kaen depicting Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is one of many put up at state-run health facilities around the country. (Photo: Rural Doctor Society)

The Pheu Thai Party on Tuesday joined a call for the Election Commission (EC) to look into posters erected at many state-run hospitals depicting Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

Critics say they may be perceived as a veiled form of election advertising.

Mr Anutin insisted the posters weren’t intended as election propaganda for him or the Bhumjaithai Party that he lead, saying he was ready to respond to any investigation.

The main opposition Pheu Thai Party joined the Rural Doctor Society (RDS) in urging the EC to investigate whether the posters contravene either the letter or the spirit of the election law.

Each poster is estimated to have cost about 2,000 baht to produce and install, and if the 10,000 or so health service centres nationwide produced and displayed them, that would amount to around 20 million baht, drawn from taxpayers’ money, said the RDS.

The RDS claims 76 provincial public health offices, more than 1,000 provincial and district hospitals and 800 district public health offices nationwide were ordered to produce and erect the posters.

The text on the posters informs the public about the intention of the Ministry of Public Health to make 2023 a year of good health for all senior citizens. But the image gives the impression that Mr Anutin is the benefactor, argues the RDS.

It is unclear how the posters were actually funded or from which agency’s budget if taxpayer funds are involved, though the government is defending them.

Suphachai Jaismut, a Bhumjaithai Party list MP, said the EC had ruled in a similar case that a poster like the one in question was not unlawful as it was primarily a message to the public from the head of a state agency about its operations.

Still, Treechada Srithada, a deputy Pheu Thai spokeswoman, urged the EC to clarify the issue.

Mr Suphachai, she said, had failed to provide details of the case he cited to justify the legality of the poster.

She added that it might also be considered a violation of political ethics as taxpayers’ money was spent for the benefit of a single party.

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