For months, there have been persistent questions around Bangkok over the future of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. With elections looming, Thaksin—still wanted in his homeland after being convicted of corruption—has been remarkably quiet. Some journalists and political pundits were going as far as to say that Thaksin was ready to retire into obscurity.
Such a thought had a nice sounding ring. For too long, Thaksin has been closely linked to the Red Shirts and their long-running battle with the upper-middle class Yellow Shirts, ties tarnished by his public appearances in neighbouring countries, during which he has taunted the Thai authorities who are hoping to see him behind bars.
But wishful thinking has turned out to be just that. Thaksin’s 43-year-old sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has been nominated as a candidate for the country's top job in upcoming elections, slated for July 3. Her bid isn’t encouraging for those hoping this election will pass off peacefully, regardless of who wins.
Yingluck is standing for the Pheu Thai Party, and is being touted as Thailand’s potential first female prime minister, something that should hardly be a selling point in this day and age.
The Pheu Thai insists she would put the events of the past behind her and work for the benefit of the entire country. Yingluck, for her part, insists she is acting alone and not at the behest of her elder brother.
The political climate has been tense ever since Thaksin was ousted in 2006 by a coup. He has lived in self-imposed exile ever since, popping up in London, Hong Kong and Cambodia—where he is understood to hold extensive business interests, and from where he has allegedly directed the Red Shirts.
Political rivals have accused him of corruption and showing disrespect towards the country's revered monarchy amid deep divisions within Thai society.
Dozens have died in anti-government protests and civil unrest in recent years, and the upcoming vote will be the first since the courts dissolved a government led by Thaksin's allies in 2008. Polls indicate the Pheu Thai will probably win the most seats. The incumbent Democrats, however, will probably be in a position to form a coalition.
Yingluck has virtually no political experience, something she readily admits. But, like her older brother, she’s adept at political spin.
‘I understand the nature of the politics. So that's why I may be accepted to enter politics to do the deed for the people,’ she said recently.
While family dynasties in Southeast Asian politics are often seen as acceptable, Yingluck's links with her brother will probably do her more harm than good, and she will need a handsome majority to stave off her critics.
Her decision to run came shortly after the attempted murder of former Pheu Thai MP Pracha Prasobdee last week. Pracha is a close political associate of Thaksin and is recuperating in hospital after being shot in the back in suburban Bangkok.
Deputy Commissioner of Provincial Police Region 1 Maj. Gen. Kamronwit Thoopkrajang said inquiries confirmed two black Toyota Vigos with unidentified license plates were used in the attempt. One vehicle was used to block Pracha, and the other carried the gunman who shot the former MP as he drove.
Police also say they haven’t ruled out a political motive behind the attack.