Exclusive Thaksins daughter banks on nostalgia to win Thailand election

Exclusive: Thaksin’s daughter banks on nostalgia to win Thailand election – Portal

AMNAT CHAROEN, Thailand, February 19 (Portal) – Thailand’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who has touted her billionaire family’s legacy of populism and massive electoral victories, has emerged as the candidate to beat in the upcoming polls and is betting that Nostalgia can win millions of working class votes.

Fighting hard in the vocal-rich rural strongholds of the Shinawatra family’s Pheu Thai family political juggernaut, Paetongtarn, 36, hopes to reignite the kind of passion that swept Father Thaksin and Aunt Yingluck to power in unprecedented landslides.

Political neophyte Paetongtarn promises Pheu Thai will complete unfinished business from three terms since 2001, all punctuated by court rulings and military coups it says were orchestrated by Thailand’s conservative establishment.

“We managed to fix everything in the first year, but four years later we were ousted in a coup, so there are things we haven’t achieved,” Paetongtarn told Portal in her first formal interview with foreign media before the expected election in May.

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“So we go on every stage to tell people how our policies can change their lives. And only through stable politics can people’s lives change in the long term,” she said during her election campaign in the Northeast.

Thaksin and Yingluck were overthrown by the army in 2006 and 2014 respectively despite overseeing major economic growth. Both are living in self-imposed exile to avoid prison sentences their allies say are designed to prevent their political comebacks.


The baton has been passed to Paetongtarn, Thaksin’s youngest daughter, who, on the same principle, offers minimum wage increases, utility subsidies and long-promised high-speed rail systems and infrastructure to deal with floods and droughts.

Pheu Thai’s slogan is “Think Big, Act Smart” and is aimed at incremental reforms of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s military-backed governments since he took power in 2014.

“The picture needs to be big and we need to be able to address long-standing issues that are festering. These need to be fully resolved,” Paetongtarn said.

Though Paetongtarn has not yet been named Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate, he is far ahead in opinion polls, with double support from Prayut.

Pheu Thai is expected to win the most votes but may struggle to lead a government given the military’s grip on an appointed Senate, which works with the elected lower house to choose the prime minister.

Paetongtarn said she consults regularly and is close to her father, who mainly lives in Dubai. His main concern, she said, was campaigning while she was seven months pregnant.

“But I’m fine,” she said. “This is my second pregnancy. I am aware of myself. I won’t go too hard.”

Despite their popularity in elections, the Shinawatras are as hated as they are loved in Thailand.

Nepotism opponents have long accused them of enriching business associates and ransoming the poor with wasteful populist policies. The Shinawatras deny the allegations.

The election in Thailand is shaping up as yet another grudge between warring elites in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy.

Paetongtarn said she remains concerned about the impact of the country’s protracted power struggle her family has been involved in, including coups that she says are making Thailand “go backwards”.

“It also makes the world see our country in a different light. They don’t want to trade with us. It reduces opportunities for everyone,” she said.

“Our country was frozen for so long. So there shouldn’t be another coup d’etat. The country needs to move forward and people deserve better livelihoods.”

Writing from Panu Wongcha-um; Edited by Martin Petty and Michael Perry

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