Tongue-Thai’ed!: Democrat poster boy Abhisit loses his manners

Originally published at Siam Voices on September 10, 2013

This is part XXII of “Tongue-Thai’ed!”, an ongoing series where we collect the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures. Check out all past entries here.

Former Thai prime minister and leader of the opposition Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva was and still is by some regarded as a well-mannered politician who would never lose his temper or resort to the use of direct derogatory language towards political opponents or critics. We wouldn’t expect anything less with his oft-mentioned Oxford-educated (English language) eloquence and general high-brow public image.

Abhisit Vejjajiva
Former Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva. Pic: AP.

However, with the increasing frustration of being in the opposition against a government that is seemingly unbeatable at the polls, the Democrat Party recently started to imitate the governing Pheu Thai Party’s political rallies and has taken to the streets to get their message across and mobilize their supporters. Freed from the restraints of parliamentary debates and press conferences, party members can unabashedly slam the government, its policies and everything else related to it.

At one such event in Bangkok on Saturday, Abhisit took the stage and among many other points in his speech, he criticized Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s regular absence in parliament and regular foreign trips, and her failure to tackle the problems back home while launching trivial projects like the upcoming reality TV show “Smart Lady Thailand” to advertise the Thai Women Empowerment Fund.

And here is when things went downhill for Abhisit:

นายกรัฐมนตรีก็หลบเลี่ยงปัญหาเหล่านี้ ผมก็ดูไม่ออกครับว่าที่อยู่ในประเทศมา 1 อาทิตย์ที่ผ่านมา ไปทำอะไรบ้าง เมื่อเช้าเห็นแว้บๆ มีข่าวไปทำอะไร โครงการอะไร Smart Lady แปลว่าอะไร ผมก็ไม่ค่อยเข้าใจทั้งหมดหรอกครับ เหมือนกับว่าจะประกวดใช่มั้ย หา Smart Lady แปลว่าอะไร Smart lady นี่ผมถามอภิมงคลแล้ว แปลว่าผู้หญิงฉลาด แต่นี่ผมก็ถามว่า อ้าว แล้วถ้าทำโครงการนี้เนี่ย ทำไมต้องทำ ทำไมต้องหาผู้หญิงฉลาด ทำไมต้องประกวดผู้หญิงฉลาด เพราะว่าเขาบอกว่า ถ้าแข่งขันหาอีโง่ ไม่มีใครไปแข่งได้ 

The Prime Minister is dodging these problems. I don’t know what she was up to in the past week in the country. This morning I spotted what project she was doing – “Smart Lady”. What does that mean? I didn’t fully get that. It’s like a competition, right? What does it mean to find a “Smart Lady”? So I asked Apimongkol [Sonakul, Democrat MP] and he said it means ‘smart lady’. But I ask why do they do this project, why do they have to find a smart lady, why do they make a competition out of this? Because if they are looking for a stupid bitch, there would be no competition!

คำต่อคำ นายอภิสิทธิ์ หน.ปชป.ในการปราศรัยเวทีประชาชน เดินหน้าผ่าความจริง วัดดอกไม้ ยานนาวา“, Democrat Party Thailand, September 7, 2013 – translation by me

Now, อีโง่ (pronounced “ee-ngo“) is not very easy to directly translate into English. However, the prefix อี (“ee“) is only used to address somebody in a very rude manner – think of it like “that …” in a very condescending tone. Since โง่ (“ngo“) means ‘stupid’ or ‘the stupid one’ and Abhisit was talking about the female prime minister, it is safe to assume that not only he made a derogatory remark about her intelligence, but also specifically about her gender.

(READ MORE: What was Abhisit thinking when he made his stupid “bitch” remark?)

Unsurprisingly, a lot of negative reactions followed these remarks from Pheu Thai Party members and government personnel. Also unsurprising was the repeated silence of the country’s prominent feminists, as previously seen here and here – despite the fact that prime minister at times faces nasty sexist remarks. Meanwhile, Yingluck herself is currently (somehow ironically yet again) on a foreign trip to Europe.

On Monday, Abhisit was seemingly unfazed by the controversial gaffe he created:

Mr. Abhisit did not apologise for his now-notorious remark when reporters questioned him at the Democrat Party headquarters earlier today. He claimed that he did not refer to Ms. Yingluck specifically when he said those words on the stage. “I was merely following what I saw on Google,” Mr. Abhisit insisted (typing “stupid bitch” in Thai on Google search would bring up images of Ms. Yingluck). [and there’s also a dedicated Facebook page for it]

“I don’t know which newspaper has reported the news in such negative manner,” Mr. Abhisit told the reporters, “I suppose it’s the same old one that likes to distort [my words]. And if it’s Khaosod, I would not know what to say about it because that newspaper is beyond any remedy”. Asked by a reporter what he has to say to the people who are offended by his remark, the visibly irritated Mr. Abhisit shot back: “Offended about what?”

Abhisit Unapologetic For ‘Stupid Bitch’ Remark“, Khao Sod English, September 6, 2013 

The media is definitely now reporting on it, as seen by the Bangkok Post and The Nation – both having considerably softened the translation to “stupid woman”.

A colloquial and at times rowdy beer tent-esque atmosphere is to be expected at such political rallies from all parties. However, with harsh rhetoric provoking vulgar crowd reactions (again, something other parties are not discouraging either) and erratic displays of antics in parliament – just last week a Democrat MP was throwing chairs – the Democrat Party are increasingly descending into gutter politics and will stop at nothing to damage the government, even at the cost of any political progress.

Some of his supporters would welcome that Abhisit Vejjajiva is ‘finally’ not pulling any more punches (as in the past that was left to e.g. his former deputy Suthep as extensively documented here, here and here), but while it is one thing to appear folksy and aggressive, it is an entirely another unacceptable thing to resort a misogynistic remark. There’s no doubt that Abhisit Vejjajiva is no more Mr. Nice Guy.