It seems Thailand’s opposition politicians are getting desperate.
Last month, 57 members of parliament belonging to the opposition Democrat Party were evicted from the session hall after they repeatedly protested the ruling of the presiding officer. When parliamentary police officers were called in to escort the MPs out, they forcibly resisted, with one seen grabbing the throat of a police officer.
When the incident occurred, the parliament was debating the proposed amendments to the constitution and the opposition wanted more time to ask questions.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Early this month, Democrat MP Chen Thaugsuban threw chairs inside the session to show his disgust over the ruling made by the deputy speaker. Chen was asking for an update about the clashes between the police and protesting rubber farmers in south Thailand but other MPs wanted to adjourn the session. Fortunately, no one was injured when Chen threw several chairs in the direction of the deputy speaker.
But what really surprised many people was the outburst of the usually cool and polite former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who delivered a speech in which he called Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra a “stupid bitch”. Some newspapers translated the speech as “stupid woman” and “stupid lady.” But in any case, the “stupid” remark is offensive on its own.
Speaking at an event organized by the Democrat Party, Abhisit questioned Yingluck’s support for a new reality television show called Smart Lady Thailand.
Based on a translation made by Thai writer Saksith Saiyasombut, Abhisit reportedly said: “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!”
Abhisit has since denied that he insulted Yingluck and Thai women in general, claiming his speech was taken out of context by many reporters.
Nevertheless, these controversial actions by the opposition have shocked supporters and disappointed many Thais. The parliament squabble could actually discourage voters from supporting campaigns initiated by the opposition. For veteran journalist Veera Prateepchaikul, the opposition and other public figures should learn from Abhisit’s mistake.
“(He) shot himself in the foot when he uttered an ill-considered remark a man of his stature is not supposed to make in public. Mr. Abhisit and other public figures should be careful when speaking in public, as their very own words could bounce back to bite them,” Veera wrote.
But what the opposition should also realize is that the aggressive behavior of some of its members has diverted the attention of the public away from the issues it is promoting.
The opposition’s concerns about the constitutional reforms proposed by the ruling Pheu Thai Party are legitimate. Their claim about the railroading of some legislative measures also seems accurate. Indeed, they have the right to demand more time for debates. It is only apt that the opposition should question the deployment of riot police near the parliament complex. The issues involved in the rubber protests also deserve to be adequately addressed.
But unfortunately, these concerns were overshadowed by screaming and violent MPs inside parliament.
Before delivering his infamous punchline, Abhisit was criticizing Yingluck’s numerous foreign trips. It was an appropriate criticism since Yingluck was in Europe at the time. But Abhisit lost his composure and went on to deliver his “stupid woman” (or “stupid bitch”) speech. So instead of responding to the accusations made by Abhisit that Yingluck is spending too much time in other countries, the ruling party hit back by demanding an apology from the opposition leader.
These are among the many social issues that could have effectively mobilized the Thai masses against the Yingluck government. Instead, the opposition continues to bungle its chances to seize the political initiative.