Reporters dub PM Yingluck the 'Backstroking Crab' in Annual Ritual
It’s the time of year when reporters covering the Government House beat pool their creative talents to think up nicknames and labels for the government and their favourite Cabinet members.
For the Pheu Thai-led government, the news people voted to choose the label “First Brother’s Government”. This was to mock its policy of offering rebates to first-time owners of houses and cars – and to reflect claims Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration often gives priority to her big brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
“The shadows of the big brother and the big sister have been cast over the government. The country’s problems have not been tackled efficiently, but the elder siblings are always given priority. They always have to come first,” said the Government House reporters’ press release obtained by The Nation yesterday.
The PM’s elder sister, Yaowapa Wongsawat, leads the ruling party’s largest faction. She is believed to be one of the most powerful figures in the party, probably second only to Thaksin.
Prime Minister Yingluck herself got the moniker “Backstroking Crab” to describe her style of running the country.
“The crab often goes sideways and fails to walk straight. Prime Minister Yingluck also has to be burdened by demands from big brother and big sister, and even people around her who keep pulling her back and forth. She has achieved nothing concrete. When political problems arise, she often goes backstroking and keeping herself away from the problems,” said a brief explanation in the press release.
The PM’s actual nickname is “Pou”, which means crab.
The Quote of the Year went to the prime minister: “Staying afloat is different from lack of responsibility.” She made the comment when responding to an allegation by opposition politicians during the recent censure debate that she still stayed afloat despite the problems of running the country.
At the censure debate against her and three other Cabinet members in late November, the prime minister was absent for most of the House meeting and responded briefly to the opposition MPs’ allegations from prepared notes. Her major argument was that there were Cabinet members and state agencies assigned to be responsible for the raised issues.
Nine other Cabinet members also received the honour of being tagged by the Government House reporters.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung was nicknamed “the Shinawatras’ Bumper”, due to his role as “bodyguard defending the prime minister, the big boss, and others in the Shinawatra family in all forms. He often went head-on in all issues” to protect them, the statement said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong got the nickname “White-Lie Chick” for his admission to having lied about the country’s economic conditions. He claimed to have been allowed by someone he didn’t identify to tell “white lies sometimes”.
The reporters’ attached explanation said that although Kittiratt’s actual nickname is Tong, which means a rooster, his performance so far could only earn him the status of a young cockerel.
Defence Minister ACM Sukam-pol Suwannathat was given the moniker “Hunter for the Handsome Guy”. It was explained that the defence minister’s only obvious achievement was to order retroactive dismissal of Abhisit Vejjajiva from Army service, more than 20 years after his departure.
Abhisit, who is former prime minister and Democrat Party leader, was accused of using conscription documents with incorrect information when applying to become a lecturer at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.
Deputy Commerce Minister Natthawut Saikua was nicknamed “Fake Peasant” for adopting the lifestyle of an elite while claiming to be a “phrai” (a Thai term that can be translated as “peasant”).
Natthawut is a leader of the red-shirt movement, which vowed to fight a war between “phrai” and “ammart” (elite).
Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom got the moniker “Boon Sut” – which literally means “sinking merit” – for his failure to curb the rising prices of consumer products. The controversy over his ministry’s allegedly fraudulent rice deal with China also caused him to come under fire.
Science Minister Woravat Auapinyakul was nicknamed “Powered by D” for having retained his Cabinet post after repeated reshuffles. This could be due to the fact he got the backing of Madame D, a powerful figure in the ruling Pheu Thai Party.
Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt received the nickname “Standby Foreman” for being assigned to different responsibilities although he is a new-face Cabinet member.
Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi was said to “Turn Water into Capital” for presiding over the government’s Bt350-billion anti-flood project in a flood-free year.
Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan was nicknamed “Sub-stitute Singha” for assuming the post after the departure of Yongyuth Wichaidit due to the Alpine scandal. Charupong, who also replaced Yongyuth as Pheu Thai leader, is viewed as a “puppet, not the real player”, according to the brief explanation. The singha, a mythical animal, is the symbol of the Interior Ministry.