PROFILE: Yingluck Shinawatra: Thailand's first lady prime minister?
May 16, 2011, 11:21 GMT
Bangkok - Yingluck Shinawatra, who has never run for office or held a government post, has all the political credentials she needs to become Thailand's first female prime minister.
As the youngest sister of fugitive politician Thaksin Shinawatra, whose populist policies implemented during a two-term premiership in 2001-06 have won him a near cult-like following among Thailand's poor and marginalized, Yingluck has a good chance to become the country's 28th prime minister, since it opted for a democratic system of sorts in 1932.
The Pheu Thai opposition party on Monday named Yingluck, 43, its prime minister candidate in the upcoming July 3 general election, to nobody's great surprise. Thaksin, who has been living in self-exile since 2008 to avoid a two-year jail sentence on an abuse-of-power conviction, is the de facto leader of the party.
The Pheu Thai currently holds 188 seats in the 500-seat parliament, and given the ongoing popularity of Thaksin the party stands a good chance of winning the election.
'My father was a politician, and so were my brothers, so I've known about politics since I was a kid,' Yingluck told her first press conference, when her political credentials were questioned.
'The people still have a warm feeling towards my family, and a sense of debt.'
That was no doubt a reference to her brother, who has taken his share of blows from the Thai state over the past five years.
Thaksin was ousted by a military coup on September 19, 2006 on charges of corruption and undermining democratic institutions.
In February 2010, the Supreme Court found him guilty of profiteering from his time in office, and confiscated 1.5 billion dollars in family assets.
Thaksin first came to prominence in Thailand as a telecommunications entrepreneur. He founded Advanced Info Service (AIS), one of the country's first mobile phone networks, that transformed his family into one of Thailand's richest business clans.
In keeping with Sino-Thai business culture, Thaksin appointed family members to top management positions within his telecommunications group.
Yingluck, the youngest of nine siblings, worked as a senior executive at AIS, and thereafter became president of SC Asset Corporation, a Shinawatra-family firm involved in property.
'All my jobs have involved serving the people,' Yingluck said of her business career.
While connections to her big brother have obviously proved a boon in her business and now budding political career, political observers worry that the Thaksin connection could also work against Yingluck in the long term.
'We don't know how strongly the people who oppose Thaksin will oppose her, since she is Thaksin's sister,' said Chaturon Chaisaeng, a veteran Thai politician and advisor to the Pheu Thai Party. 'We don't know what the elite will think.'
Her appointment as the prime minister candidate, over many veteran politicians, has also made it clear what the party stands for.
'It's a party for Thaksin's interests. There is nothing that can make it more obvious,' said Kraisak Choonhavan, a member of the Democrat Party, Pheu Thai's main rival.
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