Monday, June 27, 2011

Abhisit out to ‘de-thaksi-cate’

One Man's Meat
By Philip Golingai

‘De-thaksi-cate’ is the latest Tweet word in Thai politics as parties step up their campaigning in the final run-up to the general election this weekend.

FOR a man said to have lost his political mojo, the reception for Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Bangkok’s Central World shopping mall was nothing less than that for a rock star.

It was 8.10pm on a damp Thursday and with the middle-class crowd near the main entrance of the shopping mall in such a state of near frenzy, one would think U2’s Bono was in the building.

It must have been a Beautiful Day (U2’s hit song) for Abhisit, whose campaign trails were usually disrupted by pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Red Shirts supporters with jeering and egg-pelting.

In Central World, a couple of titillated hi-so (high society) ladies were clutching yellow roses.

Animated teenagers were ready to snap a picture of the Prime Minis ter with their smartphone cameras.

Civil-servant looking males were waiting to shake hands with the handsome politician (though Abhisit looked as if he had gained weight and his worried face had seen one too many bloody protests).

“Abhisit! Abhisit! Abhisit! Go sip! Go sip! Go sip!” the crowd chanted. (In Thai, sip is “10” and the ruling Democrat Party got the number in the lot drawing for registration of party-list candidacy.)

Security personnel protecting Abhisit had to push through the crowd.

The Democrat party leader was on his way to rescue his party’s faltering election campaign.

Opinion polls show Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai party will thump the Democrats come July 3.

Outside Central World, near the Ratchaprasong Intersection, the focal point of last year’s bloody clash between Abhisit’s government and the Red Shirt protesters that ended with 91 people dead, former Thai Prime Minister and a respected Democrat leader Chuan Leekpai laced his plea to the voters to return his party to power with subtle humour.

The Democrat had promised to reveal undisclosed truths about last year’s bloodshed.

A choking Suthep Thaugsuban, the Democrat secretary-general, was tasked to explain what had happened. Nothing new came out of his mouth.

To strengthen his argument that “men in black hurt both soldiers and protesters”, deputy Prime Minister Suthep provided video evidence.

And if you wanted to know how politically divided Thailand was, just watch the response of the Democrat supporters whenever photographs and video of dead Red Shirts were shown. They cheered.

For the Red Shirts and neutrals, the Democrat’s decision to hold a rally in Ratchaprasong was like rubbing salt into the wounds of those killed in the April - May 2010 violent conflict.

Whether or not it was an insensitive decision, a political analyst said that the Abhisit’s party did not have any choice.

“The party is famous for its attack-style campaigning. But this time, they decided to be more ‘prime ministerial’ in its approach.

“However, that is not working and the party has to attack Thaksin to win back voters,” she said.

And attack the Democrat did at the rally in front of Central World where construction was still ongoing after it was partially torched during last year’s riot.

On stage, with a huge Thai flag as backdrop, Abhisit told the converted (the audience was mostly Democrat die-hard supporters) that the election was an opportunity for voters to “detoxify” the Thaksin poison from the country.

Probably a new word was created when someone tweeted: “De-thaksi-cate”.

Abhisit then went emotional. Teary-eyed Abhisit revealed his life had utterly changed after last year’s April 10 clash when 25 people – including five soldiers – died.

“I cried for a long time on April 10. And I knew that no matter what I decided, people would still be infuriated,” he said.

If Abhisit wanted to know whether the people were still infuriated, he could walk to the nearby Wat Pathum Wanaram, a Buddhist temple where six civilians were mysteriously killed on May 19, 2010.

To protest against the Democrat’s rally, Red Shirts staged a planking (a prank that involves lying face down in a public place with photos posted on social networking sites).

In this Thai polls, planking is a craze, with maverick politician Chuvit Kamolvisit making waves with his planking pose.

On stage, at the finale of the Democrat rally, standing on the right of Abhisit was 26-year-old Singha Beer heiress, Chitpas Bhirombhakdi.

If the beautiful young Democrat politician plays her cards right, she will be the future rock star of Thai politics.