Tongue-Thai’ed!: Chalerm’s back in charge, his successor disagrees!

Originally published at Siam Voices on November 22, 2013

This is part XXIV 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.

The latter half of 2013 was not very kind to veteran Thai politician Chalerm Yubamrung. (In)famous for his hotheaded, downright incendiary outspokenness, the MP of the ruling Pheu Thai Party was forced into an unexpected career change in the summer during a cabinet reshuffle which saw him being transferred to labor minister. It was a shock for the then-deputy prime minister overseeing national security issues, given that his job fixing the ongoing insurgency in the southern Thai provinces was far from being done, even though he managed to visit the region only once, but at least managed to set up a snazzy-sounding command center to take care of it – in Bangkok!

Chalerm did not take that sudden ministerial move very well, as he railed on everyone he thought caused his downfall, even turning on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (we reported) and calling her aides the “ice-cream gang” (a thinly veiled euphemism for brown-nosers). This bitterness even dragged onto his first day at his new job when he spent “more than an hour complaining about his transfer” in front the media and his new colleagues, who were surely eager to work with him after that outburst.

So one can understand why he wants his old job back and with the anti-government protests in the capital growing after the government’s amnesty-bill-fiasco earlier this month and leading up to the impending verdict at the Constitutional Court earlier this week, Chalerm hoped even more than ever that he’d be called back to his old job – and lo and behold…

Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said Tuesday that he has been assigned by the prime minister to monitor the anti-government protests by various groups. Chalerm said the situation control room of the protests has been set up at the Labour Ministry. The situation monitoring officials will hold a meeting at 10 am everyday, Chalerm said.

Chalerm assigned to head protest monitoring“, The Nation, November 19, 2013

This came at a surprise for most people, especially since his successor, Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok, was already put in charge to deal with the protesters and also the lack of an official announcement from somebody other than Chalerm himself. But Chalerm had an answer for that as well:

“วอร์รูมเพิ่งตั้งเมื่อวาน เขาเพิ่งบอก 24 ชั่วโมง ผมไม่ได้อาสาทำ ผมจะไปอาสาได้ยังไง ผมเป็นจับกัง 1 และท่านนายกฯก็ไม่ได้มาเชิญด้วย แต่เป็นการสั่งทางวาจาไม่ได้มีหนังสือมอบหมาย แต่ทั้งนี้ก่อนที่ผมจะมารับงานผมกราบเรียนนายกฯยิ่งลักษณ์แล้วว่า ท่านต้องบอกท่านประชา ผมเจอท่านประชาแล้ว ท่านบอกว่าไม่เป็นไรน้อง เราช่วยกันดู (…)” ร.ต.อ.เฉลิมกล่าว

“The war room has just been set up yesterday. She [PM Yingluck] just told me 24 hours ago. I didn’t volunteer, how am I supposed to? I’m still labor minister and the prime minister didn’t send an invite but gave me a verbal order, not a written one. But before I took on this job I told Prime Minister Yingluck that she should tell Mr. Pracha. I already met him and he said ‘no problem, we help each other, (…)'” said Chalerm.

“เฉลิม”ผงาดคุมวอร์รูมม็อบ สั่งตั้งด่านบ้าน”สุเทพ”-เข้มรถจากใต้เข้า กทม.“, Matichon Online, November 19, 2013

With that sorted, he went on to business right away and immediately took aim at his predecessor (in every sense of the word) Suthep Thuagsuban of the Democrat Party, who is leading the anti-government protests:

“(…) เมื่อคืนที่ผ่านมา ตำรวจก็ค้นขบวนรถของนายสุเทพ เทือกสุบรรณ 4 คัน คุณจะชุมนุมมีสิทธิ แต่คุณเดินทางเป็นขบวนแล้วพบว่ามีอาวุธปืน แต่ไม่ใช่อาวุธสงคราม ตนบอกตำรวจแล้ว (…) ซึ่งตนบอกไปว่ารอบบ้านของนายสุเทพให้ค้นหมด และให้มีด่านตรวจทั้งหมด รถใครมาตรวจหมด ส่วนรถที่ขึ้นมาจากภาคใต้ถ้ามีจังหวะก็ให้ค้นทุกคัน” ร.ต.อ.เฉลิมกล่าว

“(…) last night, the police spotted Suthep Thuagsuban’s four-car convoy. You have the right to rally, but if you’re going with a convoy to it, you’re carrying weapons – but not war weapons. (…) So I told [the police] they should round up at Suthep’s house to search everything, every arriving car and every car coming from the southern provinces [where Suthep originates],” Chalerm said.

“เฉลิม”ผงาดคุมวอร์รูมม็อบ สั่งตั้งด่านบ้าน”สุเทพ”-เข้มรถจากใต้เข้า กทม.“, Matichon Online, November 19, 2013

However, before Chalerm really went to work with that plan there was one small problem…

Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok was forced today in Parliament to clarify that former Deputy PM Chalerm Yoobamrung was not in charge of the governmental body that monitors the ongoing anti-government protests as claimed by Mr. Chalerm. (…)

Mr. Chalerm′s threats have apparently alarmed Democrat MP Wachara Petchthong, who demanded during the parliamentary session that Pol.Gen. Pracha explain the authorities of Mr. Chalerm.

Replying to Mr. Wachara′s question, Deputy MP Pracha clarified that Mr. Chalerm was not tasked by the government to head any operation concerning the protests. “The government has delegated the responsibility to me only,” Pol.Gen. Pracha said, “Mr. Chalerm was only involved by occasionally giving advice”.

Chalerm Not In Charge Of Protests Monitor: PM Deputy“, Khaosod English, November 21, 2013

Oops, looks like we have overlapping duties here. In any case, the fact alone that Chalerm apparently single-handedly gave himself a promotion is yet another proof that you might shoo him away to a undesired position, but he will always find a way back to the center of attention. Or all he needs is some little ice-cream to calm down.