The Pheu Thai Party has joined a call for the Election Commission (EC) to look into posters erected at many state-run hospitals across the country that include a large image of Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
The ministry's controversial poster. His opponents say it is a veiled form of election campaigning. (Photo: Rural Doctors Society).
Mr Anutin insisted the posters were not electioneering, and said he was ready to respond to any investigation.
The main opposition Pheu Thai Party joined the Rural Doctors Society (RDS), representing doctors at state-run district hospitals nationwide, in urging the EC to investigate whether the posters contravene either the letter or spirit of the election law.
Each poster is estimated to have cost 2,000 baht to produce and install, and if the 10,000 or so health service centres nationwide all displayed them would cost around 20 million baht of taxpayers' money, the RDS said.
According to The RDS, 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 these posters.
Although the posters contain text informing the public of the Ministry of Public Health's intention to make 2023 a year of good health for all senior citizens, the inclusion of Mr Anutin's picture gives the impression he is the benefactor, the RDS said.
It is unclear how the posters were actually funded, or from which agency's budget the money came if taxpayer funds were involved. The government has yet to explain.
Suphachai Jaismut, a Bhumjaithai Party list MP, said the EC had ruled in a similar case that another poster was not unlawful as it was primarily a message to the public from the head of a state agency about its activities.
Treechada Srithada, 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.
It might also be considered a violation of political ethics, as taxpayers' money was spent for the benefit of a single party, according to Ms Treechada.