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Transport Minister caught walking - and walking tough

Feb 06. 2014
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By The Nation
email: ntsoopsip@g

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Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt has inadvertently provided the latest reprieve from the political tempest.

He’s become (again inadvertently) the Yingluck Cabinet’s first “net idol”, as they’re calling him, thanks to a very simple but very useful photo of him just being his ordinary, laid-back self.

The meme-worthy snapshot shows Chadchart strolling to his local temple one morning carrying a plastic bag in one hand that presumably contained humble offerings for the monks. He is dressed in the height of casualness – bare feet, a black tank top and black shorts. (To his credit, no one ever suggested that he’d set up the scene or posted the picture as a publicity stunt.)

But, you know, for a Cabinet minister to go around looking like that – well, obviously something had to be done. And so it was.

The next thing the social networks knew, the picture was appearing all over the place – only it wasn’t always Chadchart anymore. Scores of people began posting images of themselves dressed and posed exactly the same, with hilarious variations to rival the imaginative “planking” craze of a couple of years ago. Election Day, sure enough, produced a photo of a man at a polling station in black vest and black shorts – and carrying that funky plastic bag.

The dark attire was widely taken as a tough-guy look, so the tagline “Chadchart, the toughest transport minister on earth” became popular. Soon there was a Facebook page called “Chadchart, the toughest transport minister on earth” and it’s attracted more than 90,000 likes so far. The pictures are trickling in of fans’ “Chadchart moments” – on the Skytrain, in the subway, strolling through snow in Japan, toddler Chadcharts, the actual Chadchart with a monkey on his shoulder – you name it.

What kind of shelf life could a craze like this possibly have? Diversity promises to keep it going for a while yet. One creative genius has actually come out with a stylised Chadchart figure that you can download, print on cardboard and fold up yourself. Due out soon is a game called “Chadchart Crush” that we’re guessing will be similar to the popular Facebook game “Candy Crush”.

And the Web portal Kapook.com is touting a graphic comic, “10 Stories You Might Not Know about Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt”. It gives his date and place of birth, his nickname (“Tour”, which is excellent for a transport minister) and the identity of his twin brother, Wanchai, a physician who has the even more amusing nickname “Trip”. According to Kapook (and who doesn’t trust Kapook?), Tour and Trip’s mum isn’t even a Pheu Thai Party supporter.

The taking-care-of-transport minister has a Facebook page of his own that’s abruptly become more popular than ever, more than 500,000 likes – despite having not a single picture of him (or anyone else) in the black shorts and top. Nor has he commented on the craze, but it looks to be unstoppable for now, especially if other politicians pick up the cue – inadvertently or otherwise – and start drawing attention with their sartorial selections.

 

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