Thai women cheer first female prime minister

July 4, 2011

By Ploy Ten Kate

(Reuters) – After six prime ministers in six years of sometimes bloody political upheaval, Thais might be excused for shrugging their shoulders about voting in number seven.

But this time there’s one big difference. The new prime minister will be a woman, the first to hold the position in Thailand.

Yingluck Shinawatra, a 44-year-old businesswoman who wasn’t even in politics two months ago, is poised to get the top job after the stunning election victory of Puea Thai (For Thais), whose de facto leader is her brother, fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yingluck, known as Pou (Crab), the nickname her parents gave her, has never run for office or held a government post, so she has a lot to prove to show she can run the country.

But some Thais, especially females, want to give her the benefit of the doubt and see this as a big step for women in a country where they have struggled for equal representation in government.

“I’ve always wanted to have the first lady prime minister,” said Areerak Saelim, 42-year-old owner of a sunglass shop in a Bangkok market.

“I’ve seen too many men failing to run the country. Maybe this time, things will be different. What women are — and men aren’t — is meticulous. I’m pretty sure she can do the job based on her age and successful career.”

Yingluck has promised to revive her brother’s populist policies and raise living standards among the poor, vowing to pursue national reconciliation to end a six-year political crisis, without seeking vengeance for her brother’s overthrow by the military in 2006.

“More and more women are capable, knowledgeable and can actually get the job done these days,” said Yaowalak Poolthong, first executive vice-president of Krung Thai Bank Pcl.

“I don’t think gender should be an issue, limiting who can or can’t do the job.”


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