Thaksin’s daughter carries Shinawatra torch in Thai election

Thaksin’s daughter carries Shinawatra torch in Thai election

BANGKOK, THAILAND –Less than a fortnight after giving birth to her second child, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the scion of Thailand’s most famous political dynasty, has a date with destiny.

As Thailand goes to the polls on Sunday, the 36-year-old hopes to deliver victory for the opposition Pheu Thai party — the latest incarnation of the movement founded by her billionaire father Thaksin Shinawatra.

Paetongtarn swiftly returned to campaigning after giving birth to her son on 1 May, albeit only by video link so far, as she seeks to become Thailand’s youngest-ever prime minister.

A political newcomer who until last year helped run the hotel arm of the ultra-rich family’s business empire, Paetongtarn is now the face of their latest battle against the military establishment that ousted her father and aunt from power.

Paetongtarn was a near-constant presence on the campaign trail before the birth of her son on 1 May, cheerfully glad-handing supporters at rallies in searing heat despite being heavily pregnant.

Two days after giving birth she presented her son to the media, hailing him as her “secret power”, and vowing to get back to the campaign trail.

On Friday she addressed hundreds of supporters in Bangkok by video link, urging them to bring Pheu Thai a landslide victory to thwart the military establishment’s attempts to keep the party from power.

Energy, youth

Paetongtarn, known in Thailand by her nickname Ung Ing, is the third child of Thaksin, a policeman turned billionaire telecoms tycoon who won two elections in the early 2000s before being ousted in a coup in 2006.

She grew up in Bangkok and studied hotel management in Britain, then in 2019 married commercial pilot Pidok Sooksawas with two glitzy receptions in the Thai capital and Hong Kong. The couple now have two children.

She shares her jet-setting lifestyle with half a million followers on Instagram, and her youth and energy put her in stark contrast to her main military-allied rivals — two strait-laced former army chiefs.

Often decked out in designer labels — or the party’s signature bright red — she has energised the Pheu Thai base, taking the Shinawatra brand to a new generation while endearing herself to older Thaksin supporters with regular expressions of filial devotion on social media.

Her charisma on the campaign trail has surprised some who had written her off as little more than a figurehead with the right name.

If successful, Paetongtarn will be the fourth member of the family to become prime minister after Thaksin, her aunt Yingluck and Uncle Somchai Wongsawat.

She will hope to avoid the fate of her father and aunt, ousted by military coups in 2006 and 2014 respectively, and her uncle, kicked out of office by a court ruling.

As well as the military, Paetongtarn faces a new challenge of her own, as she seeks to connect with young voters.

She faces a tough fight against a rival opposition outfit, the Move Forward Party, which has attracted many of those who took part in the 2020 pro-democracy street protest movement.


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