Curry, Iced Coffee, CIA: A Guide to Thai Protest Vocab

Protests in Bangkok on Oct. 18, 2020 at the Victory Monument.
Protests in Bangkok on Oct. 18, 2020 at the Victory Monument.

BANGKOK — “Spicy Curry, quick! The Iced Coffee is coming.”

“Several Natasha Romanoffs spotted.” 

“CIA at the protest site!”

That’s not gibberish, but coded messages adopted half jokingly by pro-democracy protesters to communicate with each other in the ongoing flash protests. 

Since Thais are masters of wordplay, it’s no surprise that many slang words have popped up on social media in recent days to denote the presence of cops, undercover agents, and victims of police brutality. 

Kaeng Te Po: Fool The Police

A reference to a spicy curry dish Kaeng Te Po from the central plains of Thailand. It is now used as a combination of three different words in Thai: Kaeng (to trick or fool someone), The (flake), and Po (short for Police). 

In short, it’s to trick police into heading to a wrong place, away from the real protest site. Many reporters also grumble that they, too, are often the victims of Kaeng Te Po.

OK! Number One!: Strongly Agree

The phase was taken from a media interview with a local vendor about the impact of demonstrations on business. She told a reporter that her business was badly hit from Friday’s rally at Pathum Wan Intersection before she twisted the ending by saying “OK! Number One! Let them come!”

Carrot, Baby Carrot: Monk, Novice Monk

Similar to the orange veggie, monks and novice monks in their bright orange robes were spotted at protest sites.

A Buddhist monk, supporter of pro-democracy movement, displays a placard during a protest rally at an intersection in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Mocha: Police

The khaki police uniform can be mistaken for the chocolate-flavored cup of joe.

O-liang: Riot Police

Literally Thai iced coffee, but in this context, the word Liang means being taken care of by someone. You can figure out the first letter by yourself.

O-yua: Water Trucks

An o-liang, served hot and furious. On Friday, water cannons with chemical irritants were sprayed at protesters.

Smurfs: Protesters were hit by dyed water

A wry codeword for protesters hit by blue-colored water, making them as blue as the Belgian cartoon characters. 

Donald Dumb: Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha

In an apparent reference to Donald Trump, another nickname was given to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha for his knack of lashing out at everything that stands in his way.

I Hear, Too: Fuck PM Prayut

What seemed like an acknowledgement of having something is actually a derogatory term that referred to ai hia, or bastard, and PM Prayut’s nickname, Tuu.

CIA: Street Food Vendors

Faster than reporters, police, and even protesters, the quickest to execute their mission are none other than street food carts. They often arrived at the protest sites just minutes after the venues were announced. 

Minions: Men in Yellow Shirt

Royalists or volunteer soldiers in yellow shirts were seen at royalist gatherings. They’re compared to the Minion creatures in the Despicable Me series. 

The pro-democracy camp often says that the pro-establishment group are “minions” or “slaves” of dictators. 

Unidentified individuals in yellow shirts stand watch close to the protest outside Government House, Oct. 14, 2020.

Natasha Romanoff: Spy

Like the spy in the Marvel superhero films, Natasha Romanoffs refer to “spies” in the protest, such as royalists who change their yellow shirts to support the protesters. 

Baby Crystals: The demonstrators

The colorful small beads are said to resemble the massive gatherings of demonstrators wearing different colors of raincoats and outfits.

Strong Coconut Smell: Salim

Salim is a derogatory term for a pro-establishment supporter, named after the Thai dessert that consists of green, white, and pink bean threads in sweet coconut milk. 

Therefore, a “coconut smell” in the protest signifies someone supported the protests in 2014 that ushered in the coup and continues to harbor suspicions toward Redshirts and young progressives. 

A man claiming to be a “repentant Salim”apologizes to the cheers of the anti-government protesters at Bang Na Intersection on Oct. 17, 2020.

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