Category Archives: Samut Prakan

Prayers for HM The King

On Saturday, Thai people all over the country were invited to take part in Buddhist chanting called “Phra Paritr”. This was done as a tribute to His Majesty the King on the auspicious occasion of his 84th birthday anniversary this year. The Phra Paritr religious ceremony took place simultaneously in both Bangkok and the provinces on Saturday, 25 June, starting at exactly 3:29 p.m.

Phra Paritr ceremonies date back to ancient times and are performed to bring good health and ensure protection from all forms of ailment and evil. In Bangkok, it was held at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and was presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali. It was also broadcast live on NBT and Radio Thailand. At the same time, a number of temples in the provinces also held simultaneous events.

I took these pictures at Wat Pichai Songkram in Samut Prakan Province. Government officials and local people were invited to take part in this important event which was also attended by 99 monks. Everyone was asked to wear white. During the ceremony, the lay people were urged to refrain from drinking alcohol during the upcoming Buddhist Rains Retreat which lasts for three months. They were asked to do this in order to make merit for His Majesty The King.

Photo Story: Advance Voting for Thai Elections

Today an estimated 2.3 million people visited polling stations for advance voting in Thailand’s national elections. Today was for the people who had registered in advance to say that they were unable to vote on the 3rd July 2011. Polling stations officially opened at 8 a.m. this morning but people were turning up as early as 7 a.m. This is because advance voting doesn’t have so many polling stations.

In Samut Prakan, there were polling stations at each of the District offices for local people. Then there were two massive sites for people who come from other provinces but are unable to return home next weekend to vote. At the Thai Navy Academy, where I took these pictures, people from most provinces in the Northeast of Thailand, except Surin and Sisaket, came to cast their vote. For the rest of the country, the polling station was at Tesco Lotus in Bang Pu.

From what I heard, there were over 35,000 people, mainly Thai migrant workers, who came to vote at the navy academy. Due to the large numbers there was a constant traffic jam on Sukhumwit Road nearly all day until the voting closed at 3 p.m. When people arrived they had a to consult a large map which told them which area to report to. There was basically one tent for each of the provinces.  At some of the more popular provinces people had to queue up for an hour in the sun.

After registering, people then cast their vote in secret. Their ballot papers were then put in an envelope which was sealed and signed. They then put them in the ballot box which, as you can see, was already sealed. At each tent there were at least two policemen watching what was going on. They also seemed to be some independent observers who were making a note of the number of people who were voting.

After the polling stations closed, these ballot boxes had to be delivered to Thailand Post under guard. They would then be sent to their relevant province by EMS. For the votes made by the local people, their ballot boxes will be kept under lock and key at the district offices until the day of the national elections on 3rd July. I am told they would also be monitored by CCTV and also possibly independent observers.

I don’t have the final figures yet for the total number of people who came out for advance voting. Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Suthipol Thaweechaikarn is seen here visiting the polling station at the navy academy in Samut Prakan. He later went to inspect the polling station at Bang Pu. While I was taking this picture, a number of people came up to him to say that their names were not on the register. There was also a lot of confusion about where to go to vote as the procedure had changed from last time.

PM Abhisit gets warm welcome in Samut Prakan

All Thai politicians at the moment have a very busy schedule of election campaigning. Most of the candidates only have to campaign in their own constituency. However, the big party list names have been travelling around Thailand in order to help drum up support for local candidates. The other day I told you about my experience when I joined Korn Chatikavanij on the Election Campaign Trail in my local area. Today was the turn of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to visit Samut Prakan.

Korn Chatikavanij is the Finance Minister in the caretaker government. He has a high profile and so he has his own bodyguard. Even so, local police made sure that he had additional security while he toured the constituency. On the other hand, Abhisit is the prime minister and his security detail is always much larger. Samut Prakan police were also out in force today along the entire route. I didn’t get a total but there must have been more than 500 policemen, not including undercover.

PM Abhisit spent nearly four hours travelling around Samut Prakan on top of this converted pick-up truck. When Yingluck arrived at Paknam Market (see here) she came in an air-conditioned SUV. We were all expecting her to arrive on one of the big campaign trucks. However, she did get a big welcome which is what we expected. We were all curious to what kind of greeting the Prime Minister would get. As you can see here, there were just as many people welcoming Abhisit as there were for Yingluck, if not more.

The police were really expecting trouble along the way. Although there were some Red Shirt protesters (see here) they were few in number and scattered. I noticed a number of times police standing guard near anyone that was grouped by the side of the road. I had always thought that motorcycle taxi drivers were Thaksin supporters. So, I wasn’t surprised when we neared one group of drivers and they had three policemen standing around them. But when Abhisit smiled and gave them a “wai” most of them raised ten fingers in support of his party.

Quite a few times during the tour of the province, the campaign truck carrying Abhisit and the local Democrat candidates stopped briefly so that local people could give them flowers. They also gave them water and snacks. At two markets Abhisit got down to have a walk-around and also to give a speech. Immediately he was mobbed by hundreds of people. I am sure that was a nightmare for his security detail. Many people wanted their photo taken with him or wanted to hug or kiss him. And many did much to his embarrassment.

As you can imagine there was a lot of media following Abhisit today. Most of us were on two pick-up trucks. There were also a dozen or so media cars following behind from all the major newspapers and television channels. I was the only foreigner there taking pictures, a fact which wasn’t lost on the Democrat election staff who several times told the crowds, that today news about Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan was going around the world as there is someone from the foreign media. Truth be told, I am not even national media. I was just taking these pictures for my local Thai newspaper.

Red Shirts Protest as Abhisit Tours Samut Prakan

This morning, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continued on his election campaign trail by visiting Samut Prakan. Large areas in the province have been declared “Red Zones” and as a result of a history of shootings, Samut Prakan has already been declared “Thailand’s most likely scene of poll-related violence”. Which is why the police today weren’t taking any chances.

In Samrong there were police stationed along the road at regular intervals. Down the side roads there was at least one policeman guarding every intersection, big or small. They were also guarding the pedestrian bridges. In addition, there were police standing next to any group that might cause trouble. Plain clothes policeman were also driving ahead on motorcycles videoing the crowd. Abhisit’s own bodyguards were often seen scanning the crowds and rooftops.

There weren’t really that many protesters, but the ones that came out were quickly surrounded by security personnel. Most of their banners were about the 91 deaths during the protests last year. In this picture taken at Samrong, the police were whisking this guy away from the route that Abhisit was taking. He wasn’t arrested though the policeman here was telling me to stop taking pictures.

This one-legged Red Shirt wasn’t moved away but he was quickly surrounded by security personnel. Abhisit passed here a few minutes later and didn’t even see him.  Abhisit has come out in denouncing the bullying tactics of the Red Shirts. Personally I think people have a right to speak their mind. Isn’t that what a democracy is all about?As long as they are doing it in an orderly manner surely they should be allowed to show their banners to Abhisit?

Although there were Red Shirts out protesting Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan, there was no reported violence and certainly no eggs being thrown from what I saw. On the contrary, by far the majority of people gave Abhisit a warm welcome. I was also taking pictures during Yingluck’s visit to Paknam last week. I would say that Abhisit had just as many supporters here as Yingluck, if not more. I will post pictures of Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan soon on Thai-Blogs.com.

Picture Story of Local Elections in Samut Prakan

On Sunday 22nd May 2011, the local elections for the Chairman of the Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) took place in Samut Prakan. Counting of the ballots started in the early evening and continued into the early hours of the morning at each of the District centers. This is the first time I have covered a local election and I thought I would share with you some of the process that happened during that long night. The following pictures were taken at Amphoe Muang in Samut Prakan where I work as a photographer for one of the local newspaper.

When the ballots from each sub-district arrived, the ballot papers were counted and 500 of these were put in a plastic bag.

The plastic bags with the ballot papers were placed safely in this cage guarded by security.

At the same time, 150 tables, each with a board, was being set up for the people to count the votes.

This is the control center in the PAO building. Here there were live feeds from each of the districts where the counting was taking place. Results came into this control center.

The people in pink shirts are the counters. They are being watched by independent observers.

Once the ballot papers had been sorted into plastic bags, two representatives from each table came to collect one bag of ballot papers.

As they left, they had to carry the plastic bag high. They collected three baskets and a large chart to write down the results of the votes.

They went back to their table escorted by at least one independent observer.

At their table they prepared the baskets and the chart. All the time the person with the ballots had to hold it up high.

As soon as each of the 150 tables had received one plastic bag of 500 votes, the cage was locked. See the plastic bag on top, that one doesn’t have an even 500 ballot papers.

Counting of the votes then started all at the same time. The number of the winning candidate was read out loud and shown to the independent observers.

A score was then written on the chart on the board.

The baskets are there to sort the ballot papers between good ones and ones that have been spoiled in some way. I saw a few where people had voted for two candidates.

Once they had finished counting the 500 ballots in their plastic bag, two representatives from that table came back to deliver the counted ballots and the chart with the vote tally.

Once that was done, they collected another bag with 500 ballots and headed back to their table to start the next round of counting.

Counting like this went on until the early hours of Monday morning. The results are now known. There is a kind of 30 day waiting period to give anyway a chance to lodge a complaint. After that period has passed, then the winning candidate will become the Chairman of the PAO.