BANGKOK - Thailand's military junta is giving away movie tickets this weekend to promote "love and harmony", a spokesman for the junta said on Wednesday, in its latest effort to win over hearts and minds following last month's coup.
Thailand's army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power on May 22 after six months of political unrest, including sporadic violence that left at least 28 people dead and hundreds injured.
The coup was the latest episode in a decade of conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment and the rural-based supporters of ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Since then, the army has moved to silence critics. Those protesting military intervention have gathered in flash mobs in shopping malls and staged silent readings of George Orwell's"1984" novel, but numbers have dwindled in recent days.
The junta launched a "Return Thailand to Happiness" campaign days after taking power, including free music concerts and food festivals, in a bid to win over public support.
The free tickets are for the film, "The Legend of King Naresuan Part V", which follows the story of King Naresuan the Great who ruled Siam, as Thailand was formerly known, from 1590 until 1605. The movie has nationalist overtones and plays heavily on the theme of self-sacrifice and patriotic love.
Its prequels were some of the highest-grossing films in Thai box office history. "We need Thais to understand sacrifices made by monarchs in the past, the sacrifice of Thais and the unity of Thais in the past," army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told reporters on Wednesday, "So Thais today will have love and harmony after many years of political divisions." The latest crisis comes at a time of anxiety over the issue of royal succession. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, is seen as semi-divine by many Thais.
His son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, has yet to command the same level of devotion as his father.
Thailand has some of the world's toughest lese-majeste laws, with royal insults punishable by up to 15 years in prison for each offence. The number of lese-majeste charges usually flares up in times of political upheaval.