Ian Williams / NBC News
Rival parties have complained to the electoral commission that portraying politicians as animals is undemocratic. The slogan translates as: "Don't Let the Animals into Parliament."
BANGKOK - It's election time in Thailand and a forest of posters has been planted along the capital's roads.
The voters of Bangkok spend a good chunk of their time stuck in horrendous traffic, so the 26 competing parties see this as a pretty effective way of getting their message across to a captive audience.
Among the most colorful are a series of placards featuring animals including buffaloes, monkeys, dogs and lizards, all wearing suits. They feature a large caption in Thai, which translates as "Don't Let the Animals into Parliament".
The nationalist party behind these posters is urging voters to reject all the candidates and tick a "vote no" box on their ballot papers.
Other parties have complained to the electoral commission that portraying politicians as animals is undemocratic.
Offensive to animals?
But perhaps the most heartfelt complaints have come from Thailand's vets. A seminar of the Thai Veterinary Medical Association last weekend suggested that the posters areoffensive to animals. "'Beastly' posters vex vets," was the Bangkok Post's headline.
Nantarika Chansue of Chulalongkorn University's veterinary science department pointed out that dogs and lizards are incapable of lying, which could not be said of certain parliamentary mammals.
Among the clutter of posters, the others that really stand out are those of Chuvit Kamolvisit, who leads one of the smaller parties.
Ian Williams / NBC News
Chuvit Kamolvisit's angry posters urge voters to let him fight corruption.
Chuvit was once knows as the "massage parlor king", as he owned a series of these notorious establishments, the biggest of which are almost industrial-scale brothels. He has re-invented himself as a crusader against corruption, exposing the cart-loads of cash (and payments in kind) he used to make to police and politicians to keep his sex businesses running smoothly. Chuvit appears angry in his election posters, which urge the public to let him fight corruption.
The posters of the two front runners, Abhisit Vejjajiva's Democrat Party and Yingluck Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party, are by comparison, well, rather dull.
Abhisit led the most recent and rather lackluster government. Yingluck is the youngest sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a military coup in 2006. From self-imposed exile in Dubai he remains the force behind the party, though his sister has brought a fresh face and some excitement to the campaign. With just over two weeks until the July 3 election, most polls show her in the lead, and there is much talk of Yingluck becoming the country's first female prime minister.
If, that is, the army allows her.
Deadly military crackdown
The military remains the most powerful beast in the Thai political jungle. Not only did they kick Thaksin out in 2006, but since then they've worked hard behind the scenes to undermine his supporters and keep them out of power. Last year's military crackdown against red-shirted protesters, who support Thaksin, resulted in the deaths of more than 90 people.
If the army were to interfere this time, though, the anger against them might be far greater than in the past.
The election posters may offer clues of this.
During previous election campaigns, many candidates have been pictured wearing their crisp military-style uniforms. Most government servants (and a good many others in official and semi-official positions) have these. They are common sight at official gatherings, replete with medals for various achievements in public service.
But not this time, not in the current crop of placards.
Thai friends say this might reflect a desire by candidates to distance themselves from the coup-culture, and the popular suspicion of the military.
Something for the top-brass to reflect on next time they find themselves stuck in traffic.