Thai political slang explained: ส้มหล่น [som lon] or ‘fallen orange’

ส้มหล่น [som lon] or ‘fallen orange’ means a windfall. In contemporary Thai politics, the term is often applied to the Future Forward Party, which has orange as its symbolic colour.

The origin of the term is unknown. However, in Thai agriculture, it makes sense why an orange falling from a tree should mean good luck, because the farmer does not have to stretch and pluck it off when harvesting.

An amusing example of its use can be found in Pantip, the most popular webboard in Thailand, when a user traced the slang term back to the 1990s. An advertisement at the time showed a man drinking enough Foremost milk (which carries a round orange logo) to run, jump and catch an orange falling from a girl's basket. The girl responds "Oh! An orange has fallen off".

The term has become more relevant in 2019 to describe the beginner's luck of the Future Forward Party. Founded in March 2018 by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a 40-year-old millionaire, the party achieved unexpected success in gaining 81 MPs out of 500 in the March 2019 election.

Money, hard work, and the hope that the party inspires may help explain the success behind the party, but luck also came into play a few times. Before the general election, the Thai Raksa Chart Party nominated Princess Ubolratana to be its Prime Minister candidate, but King Vajiralongkorn disliked the idea. So, the Constitutional Court disbanded the party before any vote was cast.

Thitima’s name appeared on one of the FFP campaign cars.
Source: Yada Maneeratakul

The dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart, a party associated with Thaksin, meant many prominent MP candidates in the Thaksin camp - some of them had won many times in their constituencies - were ejected from their strongholds. Their supporters were willing to vote for any party which took an anti-junta stance, but the most resourceful of these, able to deploy candidates in all constituencies, was Future Forward.

One Thai Raksa Chart MP candidate even openly campaigned for Future Forward. On 10 March, Thitima Chaisang, a former MP candidate for Chachoengsao Province and a sister of Chaturon Chaisang, head of the TRC strategy team, posted on Facebook that she would throw her support behind Kittichai Raengsawat, the Future Forward candidate in the same constituency.

The next day, Thitima’s name appeared on one of the Future Forward's campaign cars. The banner said “Thitima Chaisang asks you to throw your support behind the FFP of the democratic bloc. Vote for Kittichai Raengsawat No. 10.”  Since then, the phrase "fallen orange " kept appearing in the headlines.

Left to right: Srinuan Boonlue, Chitpas "Tan" Kridakorn, and Watanya "Madam Dear" Wongopasi

The phrase re-emerged after the 2019 election when Surapol Kietchaiyakorn of the Pheu Thai party, who won Constituency 8 in Chiang Mai, was banned from politics for 1 year by the Election Commission for donating 2,000 baht in cash and a clock to Phra Khruba Sam of Phra That Doi Chao Temple. In the re-election, Future Forward's Srinuan Boonlue won and became the second fallen orange.

But because of the single ballot system, which uses votes in constituency elections to calculate the allocation of party-list MPs, the Democrats’ Chitpas "Tan" Kridakorn and Phalang Pracharat's Watanya "Madam Dear" Wongopasi also gained party-list MP seats as a result of the Election Commission's questionable calculation method. Fallen oranges sometimes also fall into other hands.

About this section:

Thailand is a country with one of the most complicated political systems in the world, and one way of understanding it is through Thai political slang, which for the uninitiated can be just as complicated. Perhaps as you read this section, you will see how crazy Thai politics is and be inspired to work as hard possible to avoid it from happening in your country.

The Bangkok Post has had a Learning English from the News for years and Prachatai English thought it might be a good idea to do something a little more advanced and cutting edge by explaining Thai political vocabulary to an international audience. If you like it, please subscribe or donate.