Unfriend: Thai junta leader receives social media pummelling

BANGKOK: An onslaught of negative feedback flooded the official Facebook page of Thailand's premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha a day after it was launched over the weekend, backfiring on the junta leader's attempts to get “suggestions” on the social media platform.

As Thailand counts down to much-anticipated elections following four years of military rule, former general Prayut has started portraying a softer side to the public.

The gruff former general has incited intense speculation over his political ambition through his frequent public appearances and photo opportunities — despite insisting he has no interest in governing.

On Sunday, the premier's man-of-the-people persona was displayed on his newly launched Facebook page in a post asking for “suggestions” from his followers on his government's policies.

The reaction was swift, garnering more than 9,000 comments in less than 24 hours, with the majority of them negative.

“You are a burden for this country. You are a deadweight of the country,” wrote commenter Kraisorn Chuakram. “If you don't resign, let's make the election free and fair”.

Many also pointed out the hypocrisy of launching an online “campaign” while parties are still under a partial political ban, which bars them from public politicking or holding rallies.

Sweeping restrictions on political parties and campaigns were imposed after the military ousted Yingluck Shinawatra's government in a coup four years ago.

“Banning others from doing campaign via social media but opening a Facebook account for himself?” said Suvipan Jampa in a comment that garnered 1,300 reactions.

“He is thick-skinned”.

Some were more direct in their condemnation.

“I will vote for Pheu Thai in the next general election,” said Facebook user Sichai Patthana.

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The Pheu Thai party, led by former premier Yingluck before she was deposed, is associated with the Shinawatra clan — a powerful and wealthy family that enjoys popular support and has won every Thai general election through its proxies and affiliated parties since 2001.

A nationwide vote is required to take place by May and senior military leaders have floated a Feb 24 election date. — AFP