Thailand's first female prime minister?


The Facebook profile photo of Yingluck Shinawatra, selected by Thailand's opposition party to challenge the current ruling party in July elections. A former managing director of large telecom and property companies, she is also famously the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, a former premier ousted by the military in 2006.

It's official. A young, Kentucky-educated, business-savvy female politician will lead Thailand's opposition in a bid to beat the ruling party in a July 3 election.

Until recently, Yingluck Shinawatra kept a relatively low profile. Now Thailand is buzzing about the possibility of her premiership, which would mark the first time in history the nation brought a female prime minister to power.

Just who is Yingluck?

She's a 43-year-old, married mother of one with extensive management experience. She's served as director of a huge Thai mobile communications company (AIS) and a large property firm (SC Assets).

She's earned a master's degree in political science from Kentucky State University.

But Yingluck is best known as the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted by the military in a 2006 coup. Living abroad to escape corruption charges, he still looms large over Thai politics. Last year's chaotic protests in Bangkok were fueled, in part, by bitterness over his ouster and the subsequent court rulings that dissolved his allied parties.

Her party, Peau Thai (For Thais) will likely do very well at the polls. They're even likely to collect the most votes and few doubt they'll dominate Thailand's increasingly politically aware northeast, the country's populous rice-farming heartland.

But as I noted last week, Yingluck's party is beset with numerous disadvantages. Even if they collect the most votes, they could prove unable to patch together a coalition that would secure their victory.

Though Yingluck has played a tertiary political role until recently, the media scrutiny is mounting. Thais and Asia watchers should get a stronger sense of her personality and poise under fire in the coming weeks.