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On Saturday cinemas were filled to capacity when thousands of Thai’s rushed in to watch an epic film featuring a medieval king according to reports in Reuters. The motivation behind the sudden urge to ‘take in a movie’ was free cinema tickets given away by the Military Authorities as part of a scheme to encourage Thai people to rekindle their patriotic feelings after the Military seized power to end months of unrest.
Since the coup on May 22nd the army has been urging all Thai’s to bridge their differences and to halt violence in the latest round of political tumult in which 28 people have lost their lives since November.
The army’s campaign to “return Thailand to happiness” has included free concerts and an order to broadcasting authorities to show all World Cup soccer games on free-to-air channels.
About 40 Bangkok cinemas offered a free morning showing of “The Legend of King Naresuan Part V” and movie-goers jammed a plush city-center shopping mall – about five times more than the 500 seats available.
Army officers, caught off guard, scurried off to find crowd control barriers. “No one gets tickets until you form an orderly queue,” one officer, standing on a table, shouted through a loudhailer.
Organizers relented and disappointed patrons, many with small children, were offered cheap tickets at a later screening.
Junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has urged Thais to seek common ground and for schools to instil patriotic feeling.
The film depicts King Naresuan the Great, ruler of Siam, as Thailand was formerly known, and his drive to end the domination of invaders from neighboring Burma during his rule from 1590 to 1605.
Featuring computer-generated battle scenes with warriors atop elephants, the film has nationalist overtones and focuses heavily on self-sacrifice and patriotic love.
“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 movie’s prequels were some of the highest-grossing films in Thai box-office history. The cast includes military officers keen to promote the film’s message.
“All of us, the government, the private sector, must set down a foundation to create stability for the next generation,” Lieutenant-Colonel Wanchana Sawasdee, an actor and poster boy for the military who plays the king, said after an advance weekend showing. “This movie is part of that.”