Thai Language Thai Culture: Thai Words for This Time of Political Unrest

Thai Language

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Thai Words for This Time of Political Unrest…

Things in Thailand have warmed up once again (not talking about the weather this time) and a lot is being said by both sides. It might help to add to our Thai vocabularies some words frequently used as of late. For this post I perused the local Thai and English newspapers and listened to the news on TV to glean words that you might hear.

Words for what they are doing…

Protest: ประท้วง /bprà-túang/. This is the verb “to protest”. A protest “demonstration” of which we are seeing a great deal lately is usually referred to as การประท้วง /gaan-​bprà-túang/, the การ simply changes the verb to a noun.

Rally: ชุมนุม /chum-​num/. This verb normally means to gather or assemble but we are seeing it often now when referring to the large gatherings on the Bangkok streets. When we want to talk about “a rally” we can use ชุมนุมกัน /chum-​num-​gan/. The กัน suffix meaning “together”

March: เดินขบวน /dern-​kà-buan/. This word is made up of two Thai words. เดิน /dern/ meaning “to walk” and ขบวน /kà-buan/ meaning a “parade”, “procession”, and is also use with cars as in “motorcade” and with (a line of ) train cars.

Invade: บุก /bùk/. This word is usually used as in a military movement but lately we see it when a group of people rush into a government building


Words for who they are…

Leader: ผู้นำ /pôo-​nam/. The word นำ is “to lead” or “to guide”. The ผู้ makes it “the person who…”. Also heard in this context is หัวหน้า /hŭa nâa/ or “the head” (of a movement). หัว means head”; หน้า can mean “in front”.

Prime Minister: นายกรัฐมนตรี /naa-​yók-​rát-​tà-mon-​dtree/ or usually shortened to /naa-​yók/. The นาย is often used in front of a person’s name to mean “the boss”. The word รัฐมนตรี /rát-​tà-mon-​dtree/ is used for a government “minister”. So the prime minister is the “boss of the ministers”.

Former (prime minister): อดีตนายก /à-dèet naa-​yók/. We are hearing this word lots lately of course. The word อดีต means “the past” or in this case “former”.

Cabinet: คณะรัฐมนตรี /ká-ná-​rát-​tà-mon-​dtree/. The prefix คณะ means “a group of”, the “cabinet” being a group of ministers.

Parliament: รัฐสภา /rát-​tà-sà-paa/ or often shortened to just สภา /sà-paa/. รัฐ normally means “state” but when used as a prefix like it is here usually refers to “government”, รัฐบาล /rát-​tà-baan/.

Military: ทหาร /tá-hăan/. And if used as an adjective ทางทหาร /taang-​tá-hăan/.

Caretaker (government): ผู้ดูแล /pôo-​doo-​lae/. ดูแล meaning “to care for”.

Words for what they’ve done…

To support (a particular side): สนับสนุน /sà-nàp-sà-nŭn/. You can สนับสนุนเสื้อขาว /sà-nàp-sà-nŭn sêua kăao/ “support the white shirts” or any color shirt you want.

Call for (as in “change”): เรียกร้อง /rîak-​róng/. เรียก is “to call” and ร้อง is “to cry out”. So เรียกร้องการเปลี่ยนแปลง /rîak-​róng gaan-​bplìan-​bplaeng/ is to call for change (เปลี่ยนแปลง /​bplìan-​bplaeng/ is “to change”).

Ultimatum: คำขาด /kam-​kàat/. คำ is “word” and ขาด is “to run out of”.

Resign: การลาออก /gaan-​laa-​òk/. ลา is to “leave” and ออก is to “go out (away)”.

Dissolve parliament: ยุบสภา /yúp-​sà-paa/. The word ยุบ yúp means to disband (dissolve).

Corruption (as in bribery): การทุจริต /gaan-​tút-​jà-rìt/. ทุจริต by itself can mean “to cheat” or to be “dishonest”. Also used is การกินสินบน /gaan gin sĭn-bon/. This word is made of กิน “to eat” and สินบน “bribe”. Sometimes you will see simply กิน “to eat”.

Words for what they might do…

Election: การเลือกตั้ง /gaan-​lêuak-​dtâng/. This has the word เลือก in it which means “to choose”. ตั้ง can mean “to set up” or “to establish”.

Commission (as in “election”): คณะกรรมการ /ká-ná-​gam-​má-gaan/. คณะ again meaning “group” and กรรมการ /gam-​má-gaan/ is “judge”. This word can also be used to mean “committee”. The word กรรมการ /gam-​má-gaan/ is also used in sports to mean “umpire” or “referee”.

Run for Election: เข้าสมัครรับเลือกตั้ง /kâo-​sà-màk-​ráp-​lêuak-​dtâng/. Of course the Thai word for election is here. The word สมัคร is “to apply for”, รับ is received. The more common word for “to run for election” is หาเสียง /hăa sĭang/ or หา “to look for” and เสียง meaning “sound” or “noise”. The word มีชื่อเสียง /mee chêu-sĭang/ literally means “noisy name” but is used to mean “famous”. So “to run for election” can be translated as “to look to become famous”.

Negotiate: การเจรจา /gaan-​jay-​rá-jaa/. The one thing that could help is if everyone decide to เจรจา /​jay-​rá-jaa/

Reform: ปฏิรูป /bpà-dtì-​rôop/. And everyone seems to want this.

Solve problems: แก้ปัญหา /gâe bpan-hăa/. And this too. แก้ means “to solve” or “to repair” and ปัญหา is “problem”.

And the word heard much too often in Thai history…

Coup (as in d’état): รัฐประหาร /rát-tà-bprà-hăan/. The prefix for “government” is here coupled with the word ประหาร which usually means “to execute (as in death penalty)”. This is the official word but the one that will be broadcast on the TV after hours of martial and patriotic music will most likely be ปฏิวัติ /bpà-​dtì-​wát/ which also means “revolution”.

Here is wishing that this word will not be used again soon and that the good people of Thailand will solve this current crisis (วิกฤต /​wí-​grìt/) in a peaceful and positive manner.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

12 thoughts on “Thai Language Thai Culture: Thai Words for This Time of Political Unrest”

  1. Thanks Rick – both of those are handy!

    Karl, as long as they stay out of the protests they’ll be fine. Bangkok is a huge city and most is protest free (just somewhat difficult to get around at this time due to roads being closed).

  2. Hope everything would be better again soon in the country. I have some friends who live in Bangkok and I’m worried about them.

  3. A couple more phrases routinely used in the press, and hence presumably by in-the-know Thais are:

    ม็อบ = a mob; to form a mob or gathering
    ชัตดาวน์ = shutdown (the action scheduled for Mon 13 Jan)

  4. Thank you for the informative submission. Unfortunately, I have recently heard of rising interest in a “Bangkok shutdown”. Certainly ensure that you are familiar with the words outlined in this article!

  5. Seems like we’ll keep hearing most of these stuff pretty soon again. Things are getting worst in the land of smiles unfortunately.

  6. I think หาเสียง means ‘to campaign’ (in an election) and the word เสียง here has the meaning of ‘vote’, so the expression literally says “look for votes”

  7. Yes, Catherine, the weather in Chiang Mai is really cool those last two-three days.
    Before, it was so cold ! I never had such temperature in Chiang Mai during the 5 years I lived full time here. But now its very nice. Only in the morning, in my rice fields, we have to wait until past 10AM to get some sun. Very foggy.
    Thanks Hugh for your explanation. Have a nice afternoon. Each day, the day is a bit longer again 🙂

  8. In everyday usage the word “protest” as in the “protest demonstrations” that are happening we usually use ประท้วง. The word ต่อต้าน is used more often for “disobedient” or “rebellious” as in a teen aged child. ผู้ต่อต้าน could be someone you are fighting against. But of course each individual will have their own way of saying things. If these words were interchanged we would have no problem in understanding their meaning.

  9. Hi Bernard,

    Looks like I have a highlight-cut-paste problem. I think sometimes it leaves off the first Thai letter. I’ll have to be more careful. Thanks for the catch.

  10. Bernard,

    As it’s a beautiful (sans protester) day in Chiang mai, Hugh is out enjoying himself so you are stuck with me.

    From my dictionary, there are indeed a few เ missing.

    เรียงร้อง is to call for and เสื้อ is shirt.

    On protester is:

    N. ผู้ต่อต้าน
    relate: {ผู้ประท้วง}
    syn: (rebel)(dissident)

    NECTEC Lexitron has:

    [N] ผู้ต่อต้าน; ผู้ประท้วง S.rebel; dissident

    Thanks for the heads-up!

  11. Thank you Hugh. Very useful !

    One question: if ประท้วง is “to protest” and การประท้วง is “the protest”, then ผู้ประท้วง may be “the protesters” ?

    Just you misspelled at least two words (by the same way) : รียกร้อง > เรียงร้อง (Call for…) and สื้อ > เสื้อ (To support…). Coud you have a problem with one key of your computer keyboard ?

    Have a nice sunday in Chiang Mai.


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