Tongue-Thai’ed! Part XX: Of protester ‘garbage’, ancient kings and deputy PMs

Originally published at Siam Voices on May 12, 2013

This is part XX of “Tongue-Thai’ed!”, in which we encapsulate the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures – in short: everything we hear that makes us go “Huh?!”. Check out all past entries here.

Chiang Mai will host the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit this week. Leaders from 50 different countries and countless of other participants from academia, the public and private sector are expected to come to discuss anything related with water management from irrigation to security – and one Thai deputy prime minister has shot off his mouth again, but not the one you might be thinking about!

Thailand of course has had a lot of experiences in recent years with the liquid element, in particular with the 2011 flood crisis as unprecedented amounts of rain and the inadequate responses by the Kingdom’s dams have caused widespread floods across the country, killing hundreds of people.

The national government relief efforts were hampered by constant squabbles with the local Bangkok Metropolitan Authority. However, it was then science minister and overseer of the flood relief efforts Plodprasop Suraswadi who cemented the government’s image of a bumbling mess when he jumped the gun before anybody else and ordered on national TV a premature evacuation order for a local Bangkok district – only for it to be called off later by somebody else.

Since then, Plodprasob lost his place at the Science and Technology Ministry and has been appointed deputy prime minister (one of six) overseeing water management and also in charge of a THB 350bn (US $11.8bn) budget for flood prevention projects.

Now Plodprasob is heading this week’s water conference and is hellbent to not only show Thailand’s commitment to water management and flood protection, but also to show the city of Chiang Mai as a splendid conference venue. And everything seemed to go well, if it weren’t for those pesky environmental and water preservation activists that have announced to protest at the Water Summit…

สำหรับกรณีที่อาจจะกลุ่มมวลชนที่ทำงานด้านทรัพยากรน้ำมาเคลื่อนไหวชุมนุมและแสดงความเห็นระหว่างการประชุมในครั้งนี้นั้น นายปลอดประสพ กล่าวว่า หากมีการชุมนุมประท้วงจะให้เจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจทำการจับกุมดำเนินคดีทั้งหมด เพราะสถานที่จัดการประชุมในครั้งนี้ไม่ใช่สถานที่จัดการประท้วง ซึ่งขอเตือนผู้ที่จะชุมนุมประท้วงว่าอย่ามาเด็ดขาด จะสั่งจับให้หมด […] จะมีก็แต่จัดคุกไว้ให้เท่านั้น และจะไม่มีการพูดคุยเจรจาใดๆ ทั้งสิ้น จับอย่างเดียว […]

Concerning the potential protests by water conservationists’ groups against the summit, Plodprasob said that in that case that the police should arrest them all, because this summit this not meant for protests. He urges protesters not to come at all, since they are going to be arrested […] and detained right away without any warning […]

“มาก็จับ ทำผิดกฎหมายก็จับ มันไม่ใช่ที่ที่จะมาประท้วง ฝากบอกไปด้วย มาประชุม […] ไม่มีที่ไหนใครเขาไปทำร้ายใคร บรูไนเขามาพูดเรื่องบรูไน อิหร่านเขาก็มาพูดเรื่องอิหร่าน เกาหลีเขาก็มาพูดเรื่องเกาหลี คุณจะมาประท้วงอะไร อย่ามานะ ทำผิดกฎหมาย สั่งจับเลย และคนเชียงใหม่ก็ไม่ควรปล่อยให้พวกขยะเหล่านี้มาเกะกะ คุณเขียนอย่างผมพูดเลย กล้าเขียนหรือไม่” รองนายกรัฐมนตรี กล่าว

“When they come, they’ll get arrested. When they break the law, they’ll get arrested. Let them [the protesters] know, […] nobody [coming to the summit] is coming to harm us – the Bruneians are gonna talk Bruneian issues, the Iranians about Iranian issues, the Koreans about Korean issues – what are you protesting against?! Don’t come here! Break the law and you’ll be arrested right away! And all the people of Chiang Mai should not allow this garbage to obstruct [us]. You can write it down like this – I dare you to!” said the deputy prime minister.

‘ปลอดประสพ’ตรวจสถานที่ถกผู้นำด้านน้ำเอเซีย-แปซิฟิก ว๊ากห้ามม็อบป่วนเด็ดขาด : ข่าวสดออนไลน์“, Khao Sod, May 12, 2013 – translation by me

YOU BET WE WILL WRITE IT DOWN HERE LIKE THIS!!!

Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s Office Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan was quoted urging protesters not to, um, protest for the sake of putting “national reputations first because this summit is an academic meeting of global importance,” echoing many countless past examples (e.g. Prayuth) that put ‘national image’ above any substantial discussion of various issues.

And the deputy prime minister Plodprasob is further going to uphold Thailand’s image and promote the Kingdom’s values and history to international delegates by – and I’m not making this up – by taking part in a large-scale stage performance playing the 13th century Lanna King Mangrai – and the ‘best’ part: he’s going to be in full costume…!

Pictures of Thai Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi in full costume reportedly as the 13th century Lanna King Mangrai. Plodprasob will be taking part in a play in the run-up to the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit in Chiang Mai on May 18-19, 2013. (Picture: Facebook)

According to media reports the play will the tell the story of King Mangrai’s role saving the the ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam from floods, whereas the historical King Mangrai simply moved the capital of the Lanna Kingdom to what nowadays is Chiang Mai. No word on if and how much money of the THB 350bn flood prevention budget has gone into this production.

Unsurprisingly, the (unflattering) sight of a government minister in charge of flood prevention playing an ancient king apparently known for his flood prevention efforts is just one single magnet for very obvious ridicule. Others criticize the potential historical misrepresentation and the role of the King being grossly miscast – to which the deputy minister also has a blunt answer…!

“ส่วนเอ็นจีโอกังวลการแสดงบิดเบือนข้อมูลนั้น คนที่พูดเรื่องนี้เป็นคนที่น่าเกลียดที่สุด ผมเล่นตามบทประพันธ์ ตามประวัติ ซึ่งทำเป็นลายลักษณ์อักษร จะไปบิดเบือนอะไร เขาไม่ได้นิสัยโกหกอย่างพวกคุณ […] กรุณาอย่าถามผมเลย ผมรู้สึกรังเกียจที่จะรับฟังและตอบ” นายปลอดประสพ กล่าว

“To those NGOs that whine the play will twist historical facts, those are the most despicable! My role will be according to the play and based on history, what’s there to twist?! They’re not lying like those [the NGO activists]! […] Please don’t bother me with such questions, I feel annoyed to listen and answer to those,” Plodprasob said.

‘ปลอด’ฉุน!อัดคนต้านเล่น’พญามังราย’“, Khom Chad Luek, May 15, 2013

For somebody who is very concerned to put on a good show to the world, Plodprasob has certainly already made quite an impression before the summit week. In a normal world his antics would have led him to exit stage left – but since this is Thailand, it might take a few more chapters until the final curtain falls on him.