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(December 18, 2020) The 'salim' phenomenon in Thai politics

Few phenomena explain and underpin Thai politics more than the rise and decline of what is known pejoratively these days as salim, a metaphorical variation of salim, a Thai dessert comprising multi-coloured thin noodles served in coconut milk with crushed ice. Once socially attractive and politically fashionable, salim have gone out of vogue, looked down upon in a new era of anti-establishment protest for pro-democracy reforms under the new reign. What becomes of these pro-military royalist-conservative salim will have much to say about what will happen to Thailand's political future.

Salim first came to light in 2010 as the reinvention of the yellow shirts who had originally protested in Bangkok's streets from August 2005 and paved the way for the military coup against the Thaksin Shinawatra government in September 2006. Yellow was the colour identified with King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great who reigned from 1946-2016. Donning yellow was believed to reflect and honour the virtues and deeds of the late monarch who was immensely popular with the Thai people. Implicit in the yellow movement was the late king's moral authority that derived not from citizen voters in a democracy but loyal subjects in the Thai kingdom.