by Montira Rungjirajittranon
BANGKOK, THAILAND — Betrayal is a beverage best served chilled in Thailand, as an innocuous chocolate-mint iced concoction takes the limelight — an unlikely symbol of the kingdom’s deep political divisions following May’s election.
The country is deadlocked after the Move Forward Party (MFP), buoyed to victory by promises to end nearly a decade of army-backed rule, failed to get its reformist candidate elected PM, forcing it to bow out and allow coalition partner Pheu Thai to try to form a government.
But only last week Pheu Thai leaders were seen in talks with pro-military party figures, with an image of them toasting iced chocolate-mint drinks going viral.
Local media immediately dubbed it a “friend-betraying beverage” and some cafes and shops announced boycotts, even as interest in the drink soared.
Devotees excitedly snapped pictures of the goopy green concoction at the ThinkLab cafe in Pheu Thai’s Bangkok headquarters.
Expertly drizzling chocolate over the minty liquid before topping it off with whipped cream, barista Pob Rujikiatkhachorn said the 90 baht ($2.60) drink had never been so popular.
“It’s our best-selling item since it became the talk of the town on social media,” he told AFP.
He was initially surprised by the drink’s popularity but thanked the politicians for his increased sales, saying he has sold roughly 150 a day.
“In the end, it’s just a delicious drink that attracts a lot of customers and spreads happiness.”
‘Hurt your friend’
MFP supporters might disagree.
In the wake of the viral image, several cafes have joined a mint-choc boycott, removing it from the menu and describing it as a “hurt-your-friend” drink.
“I was suspicious of Pheu Thai when I saw that photo. Why did they hold talks with them?” Sasichom Krudhnark Pongphrom, who owns a cafe in Samut Songkhram, southwest of Bangkok, told AFP.
The 42-year-old, wearing MFP’s signature orange colours, said she had removed the beverage from the menu.
“I don’t have anything against the choc-mint drink, but I just wanted to show that I stand by the pro-democracy side of politics,” she said.
Thai politics has a long history of embracing colour coding.
About 10-15 years ago the country was deeply split between royalist “Yellow Shirts” and “Red Shirts” who supported Thaksin Shinawatra, founder of Pheu Thai’s forerunner party.
Some critics have condemned the moves by the junta-appointed senate to block MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s bid for prime minister.
But so far, street protests have been limited — unlike the huge rallies of the Red and Yellow era or the youth-led demonstrations of 2020.
Instead, much of the anger has been vented online.
“The choc-mint drink that is popular now, I definitely won’t drink it,” said one social media user.
Still, some people think customers are reading too much into it.
“It’s just a drink,” said customer Jitphanu Sitthisanguan back in the cafe at Pheu Thai headquarters.
“We shouldn’t involve the drink with political issues.”