11 July 2024

Pheu Thai Party hit the campaign trail for the general election in May with a slogan that it believed struck the right chord with voters: “Smoke out the rat, crush the cobras”.

Little did it know back then that it would soon come back to haunt it.

The “rat” is a reference to the Thai nickname of Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul (or Noo) while “cobras” refer to a group of dissident MPs of Pheu Thai.  These MPs not only defied the party’s political stands when it came to voting in the House but also defected to join Bhumjaithai as its candidates in the recent election.

In short, Pheu Thai was painting Bhumjaithai as its arch political enemy. Worse still, Bhumjaithai was also portrayed as a main sympathizer of the power clique headed by outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.  Bhumjaithai is a major partner in the lame duck administration and emerged with the third largest number of House seats in the election.

It’s no wonder why Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew is having difficulty justifying his party’s decision to ally with Bhumjaithai to try to form a coalition which may even end up including the two pro-establishment political parties which Pheu Thai has so publicly detestedPalang Pracharath and United Thai Nation.

Cholnan hinted during the press conference to announce his party’s union with Bhumjaithai on Monday that many of the MPs belonging to the two parties were being courted to support the coalition.

Journalists were quick to remind Cholnan of his party’s “no rat, no cobras” slogan. And his answer became a subject or ridicule in mainstream media and a hot social media meme overnight.

“In elections, we may say things that offend each other in order to get votes,” said Cholnan.

Smoke out the rat, crush the cobras was just a campaign catchphrase of Pheu Thai Party. But we never meant to antagonize anyone,” he added.

He said once the dust settled, political parties should be able to work together.

Pheu Thai decided to shake hands with Bhumjaithai after it had failed to get enough support to form a coalition with seven other political parties, including Move Forward which commands the largest number of House seats but shunned by the Senate and parties in the outgoing administration.

Cholnan insisted that working with Bhumjaithai was the only way out of the current political impasse.

By Thepchai Yong