11 July 2024

Not many people doubt Chalerm Yubamrung’s claim that the Pheu Thai Party will win the majority in the next election. A lot more, however, must be wondering why he has to say it. In other words, they have no idea why the party allows him to say it.

Chalerm can assume that he is a good representative of the big, albeit embattled party, although quite a few analysts disagree with that assumption. To the doubters, having someone like Chalerm come out and say Pheu Thai will sweep the election and that his son will be in the Cabinet is not good advertisement.

Pheu Thai strategists can dismiss all the baggage that Chalerm and his family bring along, particularly because the party itself has been embroiled in a lot of non-Chalerm controversies. The party’s de facto patriarch, Thaksin Shinawatra, is highly controversial to begin with.

But Chalerm is different from Thaksin in that the former does not virtually divide opinions. When it comes to Chalerm and his sons, most Thais’ opinions seem to go in one direction. The collective national attitude toward the Yubamrung family was formed after years of stunning legal cases it was involved in as well as the jaw-dropping political developments concerning Chalerm, such as his appointment as justice minister.

Even Chalerm’s latest show of confidence in the electoral chances of the Pheu Thai Party took place under familiar circumstances — when the Yubamrungs appeared in public to fight a legal case. Chalerm was speaking to the media at the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) while offering moral support to his son, Wan, and his grandson, Achawin. The younger men are facing charges of physical assault which allegedly was part of a bar brawl.

Wan and his son Achawin are accused of assaulting someone outside a Thong Lor pub in April. This brings back an unfavorable memory regarding another Yubamrung. Duang (whose other name is Duangchalerm) was acquitted in 2004 of murdering a policeman who was shot to death during a nightclub fighting incident.

Wan’s brother Duang was charged in his absence in 2001 and was brought back to Thailand after six months in hiding overseas. Chalerm’s siblings frequent pub troubles were often accompanied by an infamous phrase: “Do you know who my father is?”

The acquittal caught international headlines, not least because of public anger. The Yubamrungs lay low after the case, but Chalerm’s political star continued its rise and fall pattern.

Before Duang’s case, Chalerm went into exile himself after being subjected to a manhunt due to political wind of change following a military coup in 1991. After returning to Thailand, Chalerm served as justice minister and deputy prime minister, all under the Shinawatra governments.

Chalerm is leading Pheu Thai’s campaign operations. During Wan’s birthday party earlier this month, Chalerm claimed his son could be in the next Cabinet, a blatant boasting nonetheless.

While it could be bad advertisement for Pheu Thai, it’s not necessarily the same for Chalerm. His claim about Pheu Thai’s great electoral prospects could serve him after all. It can make the case of Wan and Achawin look like a political one, meaning a negative verdict can be portrayed as political persecution.

How Pheu Thai can benefit from that is anyone’s guess. Having Chalerm around is like holding a double-edged sword. Throughout his political career, a trademark of Chalerm is his threat to “expose everything.” Simply put, his mouth is dangerous for both friends and foes alike and handling him may be the hardest thing to do. — By Thai PBS Political Desk