BANGKOK — Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day is celebrated across Thailand by state and private organizations.
The usual stunts are back – mass marriage registrations in unusual places and police handing out roses instead of fines – but the candidates standing in next month’s election are also jumping on the romance bandwagon to win a little ballot box love.
Leading the charge is Democrat Party chairman Abhisit “Mark” Vejjajiva who posted on his Facebook with a multilanguage pun, “If you still have no one for this year’s Valentine, can you please ‘mark’ me in your heart?”
Not to be outdone, 25-year-old Democrat MP contender Parit “Itim” Wacharasindhu offered free hugs to passers-by as he campaigned at a park in eastern Bangkok this morning. Parit is one of the party’s newgen hopefuls.
Candidates for the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat and Action Coalition for Thailand parties also dropped their usual belligerent tone and donned pink on the campaign trail today.
But not everyone was feeling the love, such as Thai Raksa Chart Party official Chayika Wongnapachant.
“This is the saddest Day of Love in my life,” tweeted Chayika, a niece of former leader Yingluck Shinawatra. Her party may be disbanded for alleged election law violations.
Provinces throughout Thailand also hold activities to observe the international day of love and promote their local identities at the same time:
In Bangkok, hundreds of couples, Thai and foreign, flocked to the Bang Rak district office to register their marriages. The venue is considered auspicious because Bang Rak sounds similar to “Place of Love” in Thai.
In Korat, Highway Police offered a “grace period” for motorists who broke the law today. Instead of fines, officers were handing out warnings and red roses for those caught with minor traffic violations. Over 150 motorists were caught today.
“We want to show that we warned them out of love,” Maj. Wissanu Kamnonmuang told reporters.
In Suphanburi, worshipers at Wat Then Plai gave pink religious offerings to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The tradition matches a Buddha statue there which was sculpted in hot pink.
In Trang, 10 scuba-loving couples showed each other how deep their love is by registering their marriages under the sea – strapped to pink oxygen tanks.
In Krabi, eight Thai and four foreigner couples-turned-daredevils registered their marriage certificates on the side of a cliff.
In Phayao, 35 couples were rowed onto the vast Phayao Lake to seal the deal. They also swore oaths of faithful love in front of a 500-year-old Buddha figure built in the middle of the lake.
In Chiang Rai, sky is the limit of couples who sign their marriage certificates on hot air balloons.
In Surin, aka the home of Thai elephants, wedding certificates were handed out on the back of the big beasts. It’s a tribute to the wedding traditions of a local mahout tribe called Kui that dates back centuries ago.
In Chonburi, a “giraffe couple” called Tawan and Bin Laden (yes) were the romantic stars at a zoo there.
And in Pattani, the region torn by sectarian violence found peace today as hundreds of Buddhists and Muslims registered their marriages side-by-side in a state ceremony.