Whimsical labels from press corps lend insight into workings of Thai government

The reporters likened the Srettha Thavisin administration to a popular Thai dish – kaeng som phluk ruam.

The Nation

The Nation



Reporters on the Government House beat have again come up with interesting monikers and labels for the administration. PHOTO: THE NATION

December 27, 2023

BANGKOK – This year, the government has been slapped with a label implying its deception of the opposition Move Forward Party.

The reporters likened the Srettha Thavisin administration to a popular Thai dish – kaeng som phluk ruam.

Kaeng som is a sour, hot, orange-coloured curry, while phluk ruam means at first glance a mix of vegetables. However, the label uses the word “phluk” instead of “phak” or vegetables word to indicate that the Move Foward was shoved out of the coaliton. Phluk means “to push out”.

However, in the Thai language, the word “kaeng” is also a popular slang to denote deceiving or playing pranks on someone.

Hence, “kaeng som phluk ruam” is seen as referring to the coalition government as mixed vegetables or “phluk ruam” that has “kaeng” or deceived “som” or the Move Forward Party as well as pushing it away.

Move Forward’s banner colour is orange.

The reporters explained that Move Forward had won the May 14 election by a large majority, and should have become the coalition leader had it not met opposition from senators and members of the previous government.

After being forced to pass the baton to the runners-up – Pheu Thai Party – it was promised that it would be included in the government.

However, Pheu Thai buckled to pressure from the senators and kicked Move Forward out of the running.

New tag for PM

As for PM Srettha, the reporters came up with “stand-Shin salesman”, a play of words indicating that he is a stand-in for the Shinawatra family.

As for the word salesman, it represents Srettha’s hard work in selling Thailand’s charm and products overseas.

Srettha is widely seen as a stand-in for Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is considered the patriarch of Pheu Thai.

In fact, Srettha himself admitted as much when he let slip: “Which prime minister? We have two.”

Other labels

The press corps also singled out four Cabinet members, giving them the following nicknames:

• Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai: “Rongkong”

The term “rongkong” was coined from the word “rong” representing deputy (Phumtham also holds the post of deputy PM) and “kong” from the fruit “longkong”.

They said that after the Cabinet was set up, Phumtham had to stand in for Srettha several times while the premier was travelling overseas.

They said the deputy PM’s duties were vast and varied like a bunch of longkong.

• Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang: “Plik Thin Su Dao”

This label was taken from the Thai phrase “plik din su dao” or turning dirt into a star. The word “din” or dirt was replaced with a part of Sutin’s name.

They explained that they gave this label to Sutin because he was granted a powerful defence post despite not having a military background. Hence, he is now a “star” shining over all military units.

• Justice Minister Thawee Sodsong: Thawee Sodsai

The reporters came up with this label by turning Thawee’s last name into the word “sodsai”, which stands for slipping something in or concealing a hidden agenda.

This label was derived from the fact that Thawee used his authority to protect Thaksin from having to spend a single night in prison.

Thaksin returned to Thailand on August 22 after 15 years of self-imposed exile overseas to face a sentence of eight years in prison. However, even though he was arrested upon landing in Thailand, the former premier was shifted to a luxury wing of the Police General Hospital later that very night for the treatment of an undisclosed condition.

Thaksin has not returned to prison since, and his sentence has been commuted to one year in a royal pardon.

• Deputy Interior Minister Chada Thaised: Saddened mafia

Chada is known in political circles as a political “godfather” from Uthai Thani. After winning the Cabinet seat, he was assigned by Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to crack down on crime bosses and mafia nationwide.

Yet, his son-in-law was arrested on corruption charges and seen generally as mafia. As a result, the press corps sees Chada as a “saddened mafia” boss.

Statement of the year

The Government House press corps named Srettha’s declaration, “I’ll work tirelessly”, as the statement of the year.

The reporters have also commended the prime minister for living up to his words by working long days and nights since taking office. They also pointed out that Srettha is always ready to speak to the press and give interviews when time permits.

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