BANGKOK — While no one knows when the next election will be held, political parties have begun testing their messages in advance of the next poll.
The Bhumjaithai Party unveiled a policy platform Thursday meant to appeal to its heartland in the nation’s east while a Pheu Thai splinter party began marketing its ideas in Bangkok.
Announced in Buriram province, the home of its former influential leader, Bhumjaithai said it would support farmers growing up to six marijuana plants and set up a fund to facilitate a profit-sharing program for rice farmers.
The party, which has expressed a willingness to work with the military government, is led by Anuthin Charnwirakul. Anuthin expressed his readiness Thursday to serve as prime minister if elected.
The party said farmers and others in the industry could elect representatives to manage the rice fund to improve profit-sharing, said party sec-gen Saksiam Chidchob, the younger brother of former leader Newin Chidchob, who has withdrawn from politics.
The fund would be tasked with finding cheap loans for farmers, issuing insurance to their crops, determining export quotas and ensuring fair profits. A potential boon to farmers that may not sit well with other players in the industry, Saksiam said the scheme would see farmers get 75 percent of the profits with the rest going to mill operators, exporters and rice sack producers.
Also provocative is a party policy allowing farmers to legally grow and sell up to six marijuana plants for medical purposes. The secretary general said that with marijuana for medical purposes becoming legal, Thailand can learn from California, which has become the biggest legal marijuana market in the world.
He said one marijuana plant can yield up to 1 kilogram of buds per year worth about 70,000 baht.
For palm oil producers, the party will support construction of power plants that utilize it to produce electricity. It also vowed to pass laws promoting biofuels from more diverse agricultural sources.
In education, the party said it will encourage learning online via smartphones. “If brothers and sisters can watch films, listen to music online with their smartphones, why can’t brothers and sisters learn on smartphones?” Saksiam said.
As for healthcare, the party said it would support better pay for community health volunteers and increase use of telemedicine to offer diagnoses and care without requiring travel to often inundated town and district hospitals.
Saksiam said over the past four decades, public health volunteers, also known as local doctors, have proven to be reliable but they need better compensation and support. He suggested a monthly compensation for public health volunteers ranging form 2,500 to 10,000 baht per month.
In Bangkok, the Thai Raksa Chart Party, which broke off from the Pheu Thai Party powerhouse of Thaksin Shinawatra, put up dozens of LCD campaign spots around the capital, including at the Victory Monument.
The ads present the party as heir to the now defunct Thai Rak Thai Party both in its uncannily similar party logo and slogan, “New Thinking. Do Anew. Dare to Change.” “New Thinking. Do Again” was once a slogan of Thai Rak Thai, a Pheu Thai predecessor that was dissolved by the courts following the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin.
In a video released Thursday, party leader Preechapol Pongpanich criticized the military dictatorship as unaccountable and blamed it for the nation’s economic underperformance.
“Dictatorship often comes with a system called ‘lack of scrutiny,’ the party leader said.