Hailing from a political family, Paethongtarn Shinawatra was speculated as the front-runner of the Pheu Thai Party to become the next Prime Minister of Thailand. The elections have started in Thailand as of now and many seem assured that Paethongtarn Shinawatra will emerge victorious. However, uncertainty remains as his opponent Pita Limjaroenrat of the Move Forward Party also has proved his potential to emerge as the next leader of Thailand.
Paethongtarn Shinawatra hails from an academic background, most prominently with a politics-focused education earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Sociology, and Anthropology from the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University and an MSC degree in International Hotel Management from the University of Surrey in England.
Additional to being a well-known politician, she is also a businesswoman and millionaire, as the no-one shareholder of SC Asset Corporation and a director of the Thaicom Foundation.
In 2006, Paetongtarn married Pidok Sooksawas, a businessman. Together, they have a son named Phantongtae Sooksawas. While Pidok Sooksawas prefers to keep a low public profile, Paetongtarn has managed to balance her personal and professional life with finesse.
Her political influences also stem from the fact that her father, Thaksin Shinawatra and Aunt, Yingluck Shinawatra, were once Prime Ministers of Thailand. During their time as Prime Minister, both of them were highly controversial figures; yet, the public seemed to have greater fondness for the Shinawatra family as a whole.
Since the military ousted billionaire ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, who was both beloved and despised by many, he has primarily lived in exile. His homecoming would require Thaksin to face prison for the convictions against him. Thaksin, however, asserts that the accusations levelled against him were made with political motives by pro-military forces. His announcement of his plans to return to Thailand has stirred the public on the brink of elections.
Yingluck Shinawatra, on the other hand, made history when she became Thailand’s first female prime minister in 2011 on a wave of public support. Yet, her victory was overshadowed by criticisms over her governance, lack of experience, and links to her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. She became popular as Thailand’s first female prime minister, but her tenure was short-lived. In early May 2014, the constitutional court ordered her to resign after determining that she had abused her position of authority. Later, in a coup, the army toppled her administration and established the current military-backed government of Thailand.
Despite the murky and contentious history of the Shinawatra family’s politics, it can be said that one of the main reasons Paethongtarn Shinawatra, the niece and daughter of the aforementioned former prime ministers, has won over the Thai people is that, ever since Thailand’s military coup in 2014, the nation has been plagued by violations of human rights and abuse of power, severely harming its international reputation and economic prospects.
Under Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Thailand has been subject to widespread restrictions on freedom of expression, with young political activists abused, jailed, and chased into asylum abroad. Ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya, and economic migrants face discrimination and are forced to live in extreme conditions.
Paethongtarn Shinawatra employed an entirely different philosophy as the cornerstone of her election campaign from the current system in Thailand which is criticized by a majority. If chosen as Thailand’s next prime minister, she has pledged to bring about change.
Given that both her father and aunt suffered from a military coup, her election campaign focuses on anti-military measures. Not just her family, but the general population also had to deal with severe limitations and breaches of human rights under the current military-based regime. She has therefore openly contested the military.
“If elected as Thailand’s prime minister on May 14, I will take office determined to change course. Thailand must become an exemplar of the rule of law, and, as geopolitical tensions and great-power rivalries roil the region, it must uphold the ideals of non-intervention and peace. To achieve shared prosperity, we must work toward an ASEAN region built on trust and confidence, free from corruption and suspicion.”
“At the heart of the Pheu Thai Party’s vision for Thailand’s future is our belief that capitalism rooted in empathy is the only way to address the numerous socioeconomic issues and divisions that the current administration has exacerbated. To rebuild the Thai economy, we must encourage free and fair competition and promote market-driven innovation, rather than oligarchies and nepotism.”
Paethongtarn Shinawatra is poised to win thanks to these ideals, winning the hearts of the majority of Thailand in the process. Hoisting the color red symbolizing the color of the Pheu Thai Party and her courage and determination to bring about a major change to Thailand, we are only moments away from finding whose predictions have become a reality.