MONDAY, April 15, 2024

Is Paetongtarn poised to be Thailand’s second female PM?

Is Paetongtarn poised to be Thailand’s second female PM?

Paetongtarn Shinawatra has the DNA to accomplish more as prime minister than her father and her aunt did, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra said in a recent interview.

She has both his and her mother’s DNA, explained Thaksin, who was premier from 2001 till 2006 when he was ousted in bloodless coup.

His sister, Yingluck, suffered a similar fate in 2014.

Paetongtarn is different, Thaksin said.

When Yingluck campaigned ahead of the 2011 election she used the slogan “Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts”.

Now, Thaksin said, the proper slogan should be: “Thaksin’s DNA thinks, Thaksin’s DNA acts.”

Is Paetongtarn poised to be Thailand’s second female PM? If the polls are reliable, Paetongtarn is the hottest political figure in Thailand.

Most opinion surveys by the National Institute of Development Administration put her far ahead of her rivals for the PM’s post. She leaves incumbent General Prayut Chan-o-cha trailing in the dust in most regions of the country.

In the South and Bangkok polls put her in second place.

Still, despite her solid poll numbers, some observers have doubted she is Pheu Thai’s top choice for prime minister. These doubts increased after the party named property tycoon Srettha Thavisin as another of its candidates for the top job.

Is Paetongtarn poised to be Thailand’s second female PM? Paetongtarn’s role is to win votes for the party, but the job of running Thailand will be given to Srettha due to his managerial skills and maturity, the observers say.

Her photo may emblazon Pheu Thai’s campaign signs across the country but she’s the party’s figurehead, they argue.

Swift rise

Paetongtarn officially entered politics as Thaksin’s latest political heir when Pheu Thai introduced her as the head of the Pheu Thai Family project on March 20, 2022. She was not named as a potential PM candidate but her bold announcement hinted she would be.

“We want to go to war again and win 14 million votes, just like Pheu Thai received in previous elections,” she said as she took on the senior role in the political party that traces its roots to her father’s Thai Rak Thai party.

She missed a million votes – Pheu Thai won 15 million in the election that led to Yingluck becoming Thailand’s first woman prime minister – but she proved herself to be a charismatic orator.

She also handled interviews expertly, adeptly explaining that democracy is at the core of economic development as well as a necessity for improving the livelihoods at the grassroots level, and personally connecting with audiences.

Paetongtarn did not slow down as her pregnancy progressed. She is due to deliver her second child on May 7, a week before the general election, but still takes the stage for massive rallies with party candidates across the country.

She is Pheu Thai’s star attraction.

Her photo was emblazoned on the party’s first campaign signs, which went up across the country on December 6.

At a rally on March 9, she made another bold announcement: Pheu Thai aims to win 310 out of 500 House seats.

Party leaders and members frequently tell supporters they need to win by a landslide so that their MPs can neutralise the votes of the pro-military senators who will have a say in selecting Thailand’s next premier.

In February, Paetongtarn won more respect from her millions of supporters during an interview in English on the YouTube channel of the Today news agency, by saying political polarisation – the rift between the yellow and red shirt camps – was a thing of the past.

Her rival Prayut has never been interviewed in English for any broadcast.

When Paetongtarn confirmed she would be a candidate for prime minister she said she was open to cooperating with any party with similar polices, and respect for democracy and the people’s voice.

Is Paetongtarn poised to be Thailand’s second female PM? Paetongtarn in brief

Paetongtarn was born in Bangkok on August 21 to Thaksin and Potjaman Na Pombejra.

She attended Saint Joseph Convent School for junior high school and Mater Dei School for high school. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science in 2008 and continued her studies in England, earning a MSC degree in International Hotel Management from the University of Surrey.

Paetongtarn is a major shareholder and a director of about 20 of the 30 companies owned by her family.

Paetongtarn is the top shareholder of SC Asset Corporation and a director of Thaicom Foundation. She is married to Pitaka Suksawat. They have one daughter.