Thailand Pays for a PR Coup

Thailand's unelected interim government, which was installed after a military coup in September 2006, is "increasingly unpopular at home" and "under attack abroad for overriding drug patents," reports Reuters. So, according to former army chief turned Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, Thailand will "spend $600,000 on a three-month public relations campaign" to improve the government's poor image. "The money isn't much, but we have to do what we have to do," said Chulanont. A foreign ministry spokesperson contradicted him, saying that "only $165,000" would be spent on a "three-month 'Thailand Branding' campaign." The spokesperson wouldn't say which PR firm is involved. Thailand's PR push is partially in response to "USA for Innovation," a pro-intellectual property group headed by Ken Adelman, a senior counselor for the PR firm Edelman. USA for Innovation accuses Thailand of "stealing American assets for military benefit," for overriding patents on HIV/AIDS drugs held by Merck and Abbott Laboratories, and Sanofi-Aventis' patent on a heart disease drug.


This article brings up two issues, in my opinion. The first is that I am quite uncomfortable with the fact that a democratically elected government was overthrown. Yes, Thaksin was corrupt, so I am ambivalent about the coup. I also question the King's role in the government, but you cannot question anything about the royal family while there.

The second issue is one of patents. The patent system is medieval (sp?) guild protectionist system. It is not necessarily the best, most efficient way to promote research and development. And, when the drug companies hide behind these protectionist measures to assure high profits while many of the world's poor die, I'll side with the government of Thailand.