Opinion: The Stinking Smell of Pheu Thai Party and Srettha Administration

Duangrit Bunnag, a key promoter of the ruling Pheu Thai Party
Duangrit Bunnag, a key promoter of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, sits as he is being thrown with feces to honor his pledge to protest against Pheu Thai party's coalition with pro-junta parties at Mirror Art Gallery in Bangkok on Aug. 2, 2023.

The Srettha Administration starts on a very fetid note – literally.

Starchitect Duangrit Bunnag, a key promoter of the ruling Pheu Thai Party and key member of Care, a pro-Pheu Thai Think Tank, was the architect of the malodorous event less than a day after the new Cabinet was endorsed by the King.

Yesterday (Sept. 2), Duangrit organized feces throwing event in Bangkok as a result of his public vow made recently that the Pheu Thai Party would only form a coalition with Move Forward Party and never join a coalition with pro-junta parties, namely Phalang Pracharath, the United Thai Nation Party and Bhumjai Thai – he was so certain that he challenged the public to throw feces at him if such coalition materialized. And it materialized, formally, yesterday.

Four hours before the event began, Duangrit rang me up and invited me to the malodorous and bizarre event. Perhaps Duangrit ringing me was partly because I played my role over the past few weeks through my own social media account, on Twitter and Facebook, in calling for Duangrit to keep his vow.

In fact, I posted on social media four days ago that I have forgiven Duangrit, no longer seek to punish him, and besiege others to not go ahead with such a stinking act as Duangrit was honest enough to honor his words by announcing that he was going ahead with the self-humiliation event.

In the end, there were half a dozen people throwing feces at Duangrit yesterday in a much-publicized event. During our brief phone conversation before the event, I asked Duangrit if it was his personal belief that the Pheu Thai party would never ever join pro-junta parties (which was led by the very coup makers who overthrew the Pheu Thai government through the 2014 putsch) or was it that he was merely sticking to the official Pheu Thai line.

Duangrit said it was his personal belief, “a fact,” and that in the end such a coalition was not planned prior to the May general election. Yet, I still wonder if Duangrit was a victim of Pheu Thai Party’s propaganda, which has severely undermined many people’s trust in the party and the new government.

I was not at the feces throwing event yesterday because I was indisposed due to a very important funeral. Nevertheless, watching the video clip, which includes a redshirt Pheu Thai supporter rushing to cover Duangrit from feces being thrown at him and pushed away by Duangrit who was determined to see it through, was painful and heartbreaking to watch.

Despite that, some were not satisfied and thought it was just a ‘shit show’ and noted Duangrit’s wearing of white hazmat suit and a breathing mask to protect himself from the shit thrown at him.

Others say why would not Duangrit demand that key Pheu Thai figures and the party keep its promises (which was made by party leader Cholnan Srikaew, then PM candidate Srettha Thavisin, who is now PM, and others) that the party would definitely never join a coalition with pro-junta parties.

Equally stinking, if not more so, is the reputation of key Pheu Thai figures who made similar pledges. Cholnan eventually resigned as party leader earlier this week as he had vowed to resign if his party joins pro-junta parties. Nevertheless, Cholnan became the new Public Health Minister in a government coalition with the very parties he said during the election campaign Pheu Thai would never have anything to do with.

Srettha, the new prime minister, was shrew as he had made no promises of any self-punishment and when it became clear that such a coalition was materializing, Srettha urged the public to try to forget about what he and the Pheu Thai Party had said in the past. A few days later, PM Srettha said the party’s election campaign pledge to reduce one-way BTS skytrain and MRT fares to 20 baht must be reconsidered as the government is a coalition government with 10 partners.

Trust in the Pheu Thai Party, in the new Srettha government, has been severely undermined to the point where it is hard for any reasonable Thai to say they can take whatever the party and government say at face value and not have to worry that they would not be tricked.