Thousands of Thais thronged cinemas yesterday to grab free tickets to a film featuring a medieval king, given away by military authorities keen to kindle patriotic feeling after seizing power.
The army has been urging Thais to bridge differences after it staged a coup on 22 May to halt recurring violent protests by rival political camps. Hundreds have been detained, most close to ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, pitted against protesters allied with the Bangkok establishment. Attempts to stage protests against the coup have been snuffed out.
The army’s campaign to “return Thailand to happiness” has included free concerts and an order to broadcasting authorities to show all World Cup football games on free-to-air channels.
About 40 Bangkok cinemas offered a free morning showing of The Legend of King Naresuan Part V and film-goers jammed a plush city-centre shopping complex – about five times more than the 500 seats available.Army officers, caught off guard, scurried off to find crowd control barriers.
Organisers relented and disappointed patrons, many with small children, were offered cheap tickets at a later screening.
“There are so many problems in society. I think this movie will help us feel patriotic and united,” Ngamjai Munkatanyu, 51, said after securing tickets for her two children and a niece. “That’s how we can survive.”
The film’s prequels were some of the highest-grossing films in Thai box-office history. REUTERS