BANGKOK – There has been no shortage of comical quotes in the ongoing political crisis in Thailand, which has given us some of the most entertaining quotes you’re ever likely to hear from government officials and protest leaders anywhere.
Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest movement, is the central character in this most recent chapter of the eight-years and still-running Thai political drama, and he always gets the best lines.
If you haven’t noticed, check out the Bangkok Post website, where any time Suthep is featured in the front-page photo, someone at the Post is getting a real kick out of writing the captions.
In today’s Bangkok Post, the caption under Suthep’s photo reads “Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban spearheads a rally to again surround Government House and vows caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will not return to work there ‘in this life or the next’.”
In the article, the actual quote from Suthep is ”Yingluck Shinawatra will have no chance to return to Government House in this life or the next,” an assessment he delivered shortly after reaching the area and jumping up on a makeshift stage.
(Couldn’t wait for the real stage to be erected to deliver this line?)
The PDRC move followed an announcement from Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) chief Chalerm Yubamrung that the area around Government House would be cleared for Prime Minister Yingluck’s return by Wednesday.
Suthep then dared Chalerm to retake the area from the protesters, saying “I challenge Chalerm to reclaim the area”.
Mr Chalerm, not to be outdone, gives Suthep a run for his money at times. Consider last week’s hysterical statement that accompanied the government’s bumbling attempt to compile a list of so-called “financial backers” of the PDRC, and then leak it to the media:
“I curse businesses or anyone who supports the PDRC to oust the government”. He also denounced those who boycotted the Feb 2 election as “shameless”.’ (Is something being lost in translation here?)
And then there was the sudden and unannounced Dec 1 meeting, arranged by the military, between Yingluck and Suthep, which occurred the day after an all-night war at Ramkhamhaeng University between students and red-shirt supporters, as well as hours of tear-gas battles between protesters and police.
The Bangkok Post caption noted that Mr Suthep waltzed into the meeting room where Yingluck sat with military leaders, but instead of negotiating, he prompted delivered an ultimatum – telling her she had two days to resign and return power to “the people”, and then walked out. Suthep later said Mr Yingluck never uttered a word.
Another character in this drama that gets some juicy lines is Tida Tawornseth, chair of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
When Suthep, ever the bold one, from his protest stage in early December “ordered” the authorities to take legal action against the elected Prime Minister Yingluck and her cabinet on insurrection charges, Ms Tida dismissed the order as “insane and absurd”.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul delivered this assessment of Suthep: ”Mr Suthep’s proposal is a figment of his imagination. He is sick and should see a doctor. He may have been under too much pressure from the legal cases and the arrest warrant against him, causing his thinking to become abnormal”.
And Ms Tida chimed in with her prognosis of Suthep: “His political career is already over,” she said. “All he can do now is show if he can lead a coup. But I don’t think he can even do that.”