Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck Shinawatra, or nickname Pu, is a Thai businesswoman and politician, member of the Pheu Thai Party, the 28th and current Prime Minister of Thailand following the 2011 general election.

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Yingluck Shinawatra (Thai: ยิ่งลักษณ์ ชินวัตร, RTGS: Yinglak Chinnawat, pronounced [jîŋ.lák tɕʰīn.ná.wát]; born 21 June 1967), or nickname Pu (Thai: ปู, pronounced [pūː], "crab"),[1] is a Thai businesswoman and politician, member of the Pheu Thai Party, the 28th and current Prime Minister of Thailand following the 2011 general election. Yingluck is Thailand's first female Prime Minister and at 44 is the youngest Prime Minister of Thailand in over 60 years.[2][3]

Born in Chiang Mai province, Yingluck Shinawatra earned bachelor's degree from Chiang Mai University and master's degree from Kentucky State University, both in public administration.[4] She became an executive in the businesses founded by her elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, and later became the president of property developer SC Asset and managing director of Advanced Info Service. Meanwhile, her brother Thaksin became Prime Minister, was overthrown in a military coup, and went into self-imposed exile after a tribunal convicted him of abuse of power.

In May 2011, the Pheu Thai Party, which maintains close ties to Thaksin, nominated Yingluck as their candidate for Prime Minister in the 2011 general election.[5][6] She campaigned on a platform of national reconciliation, poverty eradication, and corporate income tax reduction, but the ruling Democrat Party claimed that she would act in the interests of her exiled brother. The Pheu Thai Party won a landslide victory, winning 265 seats in the 500 seat House of Representatives of Thailand,[7] It was only the second time in Thai political history that a single party won a parliamentary majority, the first party was her brother's party, Thai Rak Thai Party.

Early life and business career

Yingluck Shinawatra at US Embassy, Bangkok, July 2011

Yingluck Shinawatra is the youngest of nine children of Lert and Yindee.[8][9] Her father was a member of parliament for Chiang Mai.[10] Yingluck grew up in Chiang Mai and attended Regina Coeli College, a girls school, at the lower secondary level and then Yupparaj College, a co-ed school, at the upper secondary level.[11] She graduated with a BA degree from the Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration, Chiang Mai University in 1988 and earned a MPA degree (specialization in Management Information Systems) from Kentucky State University in 1991.

Yingluck started her career as a sales and marketing intern at Shinawatra Directories Co., Ltd., a telephone directory business founded by AT&T International. She later became the director of procurement and the director of operations. In 1994, she became the general manager of Rainbow Media, a subsidiary of International Broadcasting Corporation (which later became TrueVisions). She left as Deputy CEO of IBC in 2002, and became the CEO of Advanced Info Service (AIS), Thailand's largest mobile phone operator.[8] After the sale of Shin Corporation (the parent company of AIS) to Temasek Holdings, Yingluck resigned from AIS, but remained Managing Director of SC Asset Co Ltd, the Shinawatra family property development company. She was investigated by Thailand's Securities and Exchange Commission regarding possible insider trading after she sold shares of her AIS stock for a profit prior to the sale of the Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings. No charges were filed.[12] Yingluck Shinawatra is also a committee member and secretary of the Thaicom Foundation.

Yingluck received 0.68% of Shin Corp shares out of the 46.87% that Thaksin and his then wife held in 1999. The military junta-appointed Assets Examination Committee claimed that Yingluck made up false transactions and that “there were no real payments for each Ample Rich Co.,Ltd shares sold” and “the transactions were made at a cost basis of par value in order to avoid income taxes, and all the dividends paid out by Shin to those people were transferred to [her sister-in-law] Potjaman's bank accounts”. However, the AEC did not pursue a case against her.[13] Yingluck claimed that “her family has been a victim of political persecution”.[14]

She has one son, Supasek, with her common-law husband, Anusorn Amornchat. Anusorn was an executive of the Charoen Pokphand Group and managing director of M Link Asia Corporation PCL.[15] Her sister, Yaowapa Wongsawat, is the wife of former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Political career

Establishment of the Pheu Thai Party

After the governing People's Power party was dissolved and its executive board was banned from political activity by the Constitutional Court on 2 December 2008,[16] former People's Power Party MPs formed the Pheu Thai Party. Yingluck was asked to become the leader of the party but she declined, stating that she did not want to be Prime Minister and wanted to focus on business.[17] Yongyuth Wichaidit became the leader of the party.

US diplomatic cables leaked in 2011 revealed that during a 9 September 2009 meeting, former Deputy Prime Minister and "close Thaksin ally" Sompong Amornvivat told Ambassador to Thailand Eric John that he did not envision a big role for Yingluck in the Pheu Thai Party, and that "Thaksin himself was not eager to raise her profile within the party, and was more focused on finding ways to keep his own hand active in politics." However, in a subsequent cable dated 25 November 2009, the Ambassador noted that in a meeting with Yingluck, she spoke with confidence about the "operations, strategy and goals" of the Pheu Thai party and seemed "far more poised" than in previous meetings. The cable cited Yingluck saying that, "Someone could easily emerge relatively late in the game to take the reins of the party and serve as the next Prime Minister."[18]

Yingluck's bank account was among 86 bank accounts that the Abhisit government accused of being used to fund Red Shirt protesters during their demonstrations in 2010. Abhisit accused the Red Shirts of trying to overthrow the monarchy. However, the government did not pursue any legal case against her. The Department for Special Investigation found that from 28 April 2009 to May 2010, 150 million baht was deposited into one of her accounts while 166 million baht was withdrawn. On 28 April 2010 alone, 144 million baht was withdrawn.[19]

Pheu Thai Party Leadership

Yongyuth had stated his intention of resigning as party leader in late 2010. Speculation about a snap election in early 2011 heightened internal debate with regards to the party leadership. The front runners were Yingluck and Mingkwan Sangsuwan, who had led the opposition in an unsuccessful motion of no confidence against the Democrat Party-led coalition government. As late as 28 January 2011, Yingluck continued to rule out the party leadership, repeating that she wanted to focus on business. However, she was endorsed by veteran politician Chalerm Yubamrung.[20]

On 16 May 2011, the Pheu Thai party voted to name Yingluck as the party's top candidate under the party-list system (and presumably be the party's nominee for Prime Minister) for parliamentary election scheduled for 3 July. However, she was not made party leader and she did not join the executive board of the party. The ultimate decision was made by Thaksin. "Some said she is my nominee. That's not true. But it can be said that Yingluck is my clone... Another important thing is that Ms Yingluck is my sister and she can make decisions for me. She can say 'yes' or 'no' on my behalf," Thaksin noted in an interview.[21]

2011 Election and Rise to Premiership

Election campaign

Promotion for Yingluck Shinawatra and her party at Pathum Thani Province, July 2011

Yingluck's main campaign theme was reconciliation following the extended political crisis from 2008 to 2010, culminating in the military crackdown on protesters which left nearly a hundred protesters dead and thousands injured. She promised to empower the Independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (ITRC), the panel that the Democrat Party-led government had set up to investigate the killings.[22] The ITRC had complained that its work was hampered by the military and the government.[23]

Yingluck also proposed a general amnesty for all major politically motivated incidents that had taken place since the 2006 coup, which could include the coup itself, court rulings banning Thai Rak Thai and People's Power Party leaders from seeking office, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) seizures of Government House and Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi Airports, the military crackdowns of 2009 and 2010, and the conviction of Thaksin Shinawatra for abuse of power.[24] The proposal was fiercely attacked by the government, who claimed that it would specifically give amnesty to Thaksin, and also result in the return to him of the 46 billion baht of his wealth that that the government had seized as a penalty. However, Yingluck denied that the return of seized assets was a priority for the Pheu Thai party, and repeated that she had no intention of giving amnesty to any one person. Abhisit claimed outright that Yingluck was lying and that amnesty to Thaksin actually was the Pheu Thai party's policy.[25] The government blamed Pheu Thai for the bloodshed during the military crackdown.[26]

Yingluck described a 2020 vision for the elimination of poverty.[27] She promised to reduce the corporate income tax from 30% to 23% and then 20% by 2013 and to raise the minimum wage to 300 baht per day and the minimum wage for university graduates to 15,000 baht per month. Her agricultural policies included improving operating cashflow to farmers and providing loans of up to 70% of expected income, based on a guaranteed rice price of 15,000 baht per ton.[28] She also planned to provide free public Wi-Fi and a tablet PC to every schoolchild (a Thai Rak Thai Party plan to provide one laptop per child was cancelled after the 2006 military coup).[29]

Election results and the establishment of the government

Exit polls indicated a landslide victory, with Pheu Thai projected to win as many as 310 seats in the 500-seat parliament.[30] The official result was 265 seats for Pheu Thai, with a 75.03% turnout rate. There were 3 million invalid ballots; the large number was cited as the cause for the difference between the exit poll results and the official count.[31] It was only the 2nd time in Thai history where a single party won more than half of the seats in parliament; the first time was in 2005 with Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party.

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon welcomed the outcome of the elections and called for all parties to "respect the will of the Thai people as expressed through the democratic process." Aung San Su Kyi congratulated Yingluck, praised the election as “free and fair,” and expected “the ties between Myanmar and Thailand to get better.”[32][33]

Yingluck quickly formed a coalition with the Chartthaipattana (19 seats), Chart Pattana Puea Pandin (7 seats), and Phalang Chon (7 seats), and Mahachon (1 seat), and New Democracy (1 seat) parties, giving her a total of 300 seats.[34][35] Outgoing Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon said that he accepted the election results, and after having talked with military leaders, would not intervene.[36]

In her first post-election Facebook post, she said that her top priorities were peoples' livelihoods and national reconciliation. She promised truth, justice, and rule of law for all, and asked people to work together to achieve her 2020 vision.[37]

Prime Minister

Yingluck greeting US President Barack Obama at the ASEAN Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Nov. 18, 2011

Yingluck at the World Economic Forum, January 2012

Following the general election, the first separate session of the House of Representatives was held in the morning of 5 August to select a new Prime Minister.[38] 296 of the 500 members of parliament voted to approve the premiership of Yingluck Shinawatra, three disapproved, and 197 abstained. Four Democrat lawmakers were absent.[39][40] Somsak Kiatsuranont, President of the National Assembly, advised and consented King Bhumibol Adulyadej to appoint Yingluck Prime Minister on 8 August.[41] The Proclamation on her appointment has taken retroactive effect from 5 August.[42]

Yingluck has set up her Council of Ministers on 9 August. She and her Ministers were sworn in on 10 August.[43] They must then complete addressing their administrative policy to the National Assembly. According to the Constitution, the address must be made within fifteen days from the effective date of the Proclamation on Yingluck's appointment.[44]

Key members of Yingluck's cabinet include former Interior Permanent Secretary Yongyuth Wichaidit as Interior Minister, Securities and Exchange Commission Secretary-General Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala as Finance Minister, and former Defense Permanent Secretary General Yuthasak Sasiprapa as Defense Minister. Absent from Yingluck's cabinet were Red Shirts who had spearheaded protests against the Democrat Party-led government.

Polls from shortly after her cabinet was announced found that the cabinet rated most highly in terms of economic competency. It also showed that Yingluck was much more popular than her exiled brother Thaksin.[45]

2011 floods

The 2011 rainy season saw the highest levels of rainfall in Thailand in the previous 50 years.[46] Flooding started in Northern Thailand in 31 July, a week prior to Yingluck's appointment as Prime Minister.[47] Flooding quickly spread from the North to the Central Chao Phraya River Basin, and by the beginning of October, the province of Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, was almost flooded. The floods were the worst in Thailand in over 50 years. Yingluck established centralised flood monitoring and relief operations in mid-August and made tours of flood provinces beginning 12 August.[48] Yingluck also pledged to invest in long-term prevention projects, including the construction of drainage canals. Flood reduction measures were hampered by disputes between people on the different sides of flood barriers: those on the flooded side in many instances sabotage the barriers, sometimes resulting in armed confrontation.[49][50] Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and military leaders called for Yingluck to declare a state of emergency, claiming that it would give the military greater authority to deal with embankment sabotage.[51] A state of emergency had last been declared in 2010 during the Abhisit-government's crackdown on anti-government protesters. Yingluck refused to declare a state of emergency, saying that it would not improve flood management. Instead, she invoked the 2007 Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act and issued a disaster warning which gave her government greater authority to manage flood control and drainage.[52]

Cabinet reshuffle

Yingluck Shinawatra in Munich with Bavarian minister for economy Martin Zeil

On 18 January 2012, Yingluck reshuffled her cabinet, assigning six cabinet members to new posts, naming ten new ministers and deputies and dismissing nine members of the government.[53] The regrouping was assessed as a step to increase loyalty to the head of government and a reaction to discontent with the government's management of the flood disaster.[53][54] Especially noted was the choice of Nalinee Taveesin (Minister in the PM's Office), who is on a U.S. blacklist for alleged business links to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe,[55][56][57] and Nattawut Saikua (Deputy Minister of Agriculture), the first leader of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD, or "Red Shirts") in the government.[58][59][60] Yingluck's first cabinet had not incorporated any "Red Shirts" activists.[61]

Royal decorations

Yingluck has received the following royal decorations in the Honours System of Thailand:

  • Dame Grand Cordon (Special Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant: 6 April 2012
  • Dame Grand Cordon (Special Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand: 20 March 2012
  • Dame Grand Cross (First Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant: 30 November 2011
  • Member (Fifth Class) of The Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand : 12 December 2008
  • Member (Fifth Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant : 24 November 2004
  • The Boy Scout Citation Medal 1st Class : 5 June 2012


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