Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is already emerging as the favorite for prime minister in an opinion poll ahead of the upcoming elections scheduled for May 2023.
In a recent poll, voters’ top choices for prime minister were current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Paethongtarn Shinawatra, a probable contender from the opposition Pheu Thai Party.
According to the poll, 28.5 percent of respondents support Paethongtarn, compared to 25.7 percent who support Prayut. Anutin Charnvirakul, the public health minister from the Bhumjaithai Party, comes in third with 21.2 percent, while Pita Limjaroenrat, from the Move Ahead Party, lags well behind in fourth place with 14.4 percent.
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan of the Palang Pracharath Party received only 2.7% of the vote.
A Shinawatra family proxy on the rise?
Paetongtarn was born in the United States on August 21, 1986, and is known by her family nickname as “Ung-ing.” She is wed to a licensed airline pilot, and they have one child together.
Paetongtarn has a fortune valued at more than 4.3 billion baht thanks to his status as the largest shareholder of the real estate developer SC Asset Corporation, listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).
Although she has no political experience, she graduated from the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University (CU) and then studied international hotel management at the University of Surrey in England.
His Instagram account (@ingshin21) already has nearly 500,000 followers.
But the rise of Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the exiled former Thai prime minister’s daughter, as a political personality and potential candidate for prime minister in the country’s upcoming general election may deepen existing political rifts.
Since Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006, parties loyal to his movement have won general elections several times, with their main electoral strength coming from the populous, predominately rural northeast of the nation. But their prime ministers have been removed each time by court rulings or coups.
Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s younger sister, served as prime minister from 2011 to 2014 before being impeached in the 2014 military coup.
Thaksin go home?
Thaksin has never given up on returning to Thailand, even if he is still considered to be on the run by the Thai justice system, as he is still under sentence of two years in prison.
He frequently communicates with Pheu Thai supporters online under his pseudonym, “Tony Woodsome“. He has repeatedly mentioned his desire to “go home” during conversations at the Clubhouse with members of the CARE group, a Pheu Thai think tank.
Paetongtarn also reiterated his father’s wish to return to Thailand during his speech at a Pheu Thai party meeting in Khon Kaen.
“He has never forgotten the debt he owes to Thailand. He never forgot the Thais. His strong desire is to return to Thailand and repay the debt of gratitude he owes to his people,” she said.
But a new election of a member of the Shinawatra family as prime minister, the third, would be a slap in the face for Thailand’s military and royal elites and risk plunging Thailand into a new cycle of protests and repressions.