Posts falsely claim photo shows Thai PM 'forced to avoid protest gesture' in election run-up

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on April 7, 2023 at 11:11
  • Updated on April 7, 2023 at 11:13
  • 2 min read
  • By AFP Thailand
A photo of Thailand’s prime minister signalling with his hands to indicate his party candidate’s ballot number in the upcoming general election has been shared in posts that falsely claim he was forced to avoid making a "three-finger salute", synonymous with pro-democracy activists in Thailand, because the candidate’s number was three. In fact, the photo -- shared hundreds of times -- shows Prayut Chan-O-Cha signalling the number 12, the ballot number assigned to the Bangkok candidate.

The photo shows Prayut, who leads the United Thai Nation party, posing with his candidate Pongpol Yodmuangcharoen.

Both men can be seen holding up one finger on their right hand, and two fingers on their left hand.

"Karmic justice. When Prayut's ballot number turns out to be 3," reads the Thai-language caption of the Facebook post on April 3, 2023.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, captured on April 4, 2023.

A Facebook page for News Show -- a programme broadcast on Thai broadcaster Thairath -- also shared the false claim in a post published on April 3, 2023.

The post reads: "(Prayut) signals 3 fingers! ... as he gestures the three fingers, because his party's candidate drew ballot number 3 during a photo session."

The three-finger salute -- inspired by the US novel "The Hunger Games" -- emerged in Thailand as a signal of defiance against the 2014 military coup, which was led by Prayut.

The posts circulated online as candidate registration opened for Thailand's general election scheduled for May 14.

Ex-army chief Prayut is expected to face a tough battle against opposition parties vowing to rewrite the army-drafted constitution, AFP reported.

Another independent candidate for Bangkok governor, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, was pictured trying to avoid making the three-finger salute after he was assigned ballot number three, local media reported.

Comments from some users on the false posts indicated they believed Pongpol also drew ballot number three in the upcoming election and teased him over the apparent irony.

"Karma has finally caught up to you," wrote one user, while another said; "Serves you right".

A similar claim was shared on Facebook here, here and here; and on Twitter here.

However, Pongpol was in fact assigned the number 12 on the ballot, and the photo shows him signalling this with Prayut.

Different ballot number

The Election Commission shared a spreadsheet file on April 4 detailing all candidates running in Bangkok constituencies and their respective ballot numbers. The file indicates Pongpol's ballot number -- on line 297 -- was 12.

The file also indicates that none of the candidates in 33 Bangkok constituencies were assigned ballot number three.

The United Thai Nation Party's post about its Bangkok candidates also indicated Pongpol's ballot number was 12, as shown below:

Thai broadcaster Thairath has said on its main Facebook page that Pongpol was assigned the number 12 ahead of the election.

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