Campaign Trail

Sister of Thai Ex-Prime Minister May Win July Vote

Friday, July 1, 2011

Yingluck Shinawatra may well become Thailand's first female prime minister after July 3 elections. But women's rights advocates aren't enthusiastic, seeing her as a place-holder for her powerful brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in 2006.

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Promising a Women's Ministry

Since she announced her candidacy in May 16, Yingluck has promised to set up a women's development fund with funding of about $3 million in each of Thailand's 76 provinces and to create an independent women's ministry at the government level.

But Skrobanek is skeptical of any campaign promises in the context of a possible effort by the candidate's brother to use her as his proxy.

Yingluck would have to secure majority support of 500 newly elected House of Representative officials before she could take office. Once her party gains that, a male party representative could step forward as leader. Once in power, a Pheu Thai prime minister would likely set up a series of legal reforms to help Thaksin return home; a plan Yingluck has already proposed.

Skrobanek said this might be a better alternative to Yingluck following through on her run.

"What's the use of having women as political leaders if they are not conscious of women's issues?" she said. "If she wins and she doesn't care, she won't be contributing anything to women at all."

Her brief campaign has attracted her brother's loyalists, many of whom like the attractive, amiable woman portrayed by national media.

Sidestepping Debate

Last week Yingluck declined to publicly debate her top opponent, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, and sent her party's economic adviser in her place.

"It's better to be silent and have people think you are a fool than to be outspoken and to prove they are right," Tonguthai said.

The burst in female candidates this election could help Thailand to continue outperforming on the gender related areas of the Millennium Development Goals, targets set by the United Nations in 2000, to be reached by 2015.

Two gender goals for 2015--to reduce the maternal mortality rate by three quarters and to achieve boy-girl parity in primary and secondary schools--appear on target.

Maternal mortality rates, according to the United Nations Development Program, increased slightly from 44.50 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 49.90 deaths per 100,000 births in 2007, but Thailand is still considered on target to meet its goal of 36 deaths per 100,000 births by 2015.

The ratio of girls to boys in primary schools improved from .93 to .94 percent -- with 1.0 as the target -- from 2000 to 2009, according to the UNDP.

A remaining goal is to double representation of women in national parliament to a quota of 30 percent by 2015.


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Amy Lieberman, currently in Southeast Asia, is a correspondent at the United Nations headquarters and a freelance writer based in New York City.

For more information:

Al-Sharif's video

Honk for Women Driving Campaign

Asia-Pacific Women's Watch

U.N. Millenium Devlopment Goals Campaign

International Women's Democracy Center--Fact Sheets on Political Participation

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