A Thai first

Assuming the title as Thailand's first female prime minister following the overwhelming victory in yesterday’s Thai elections is a great achievement for Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of Thaksin.  Particularly since she’s reported to have taken up her political career just six weeks ago.  The 44-year-old former businesswoman is on the threshold of becoming Thailand’s first female Prime Minister, after having secured an estimated 265 out of the 500 seats in Parliament.  The people of Thailand seem to think that Yingluck could be just the woman to restore stability to the country. And unlike her older brother who was ousted as PM five years ago by the army, Yingluck also has military backing as they’ve declared that they will not ‘challenge’ her authority according to The Guardian.  So a win-win then. Yingluck has denied reports that she would be a front for her brother and instead claims that she intends to tackle “economic woes” and lead “the country on the path of reconciliation”. This all sounds very promising, but no mention of human rights in all her rhetoric so far.  Since her brother’s departure from office in 2005, Bangkok’s streets have been regularly flooded by mass political demonstrations where, on several occasions, demonstrators have been killed. In April and May last year, 92 people were killed. But so far no security forces have been held to account for such violations. Benjamin Zawacki of Amnesty has called for this weekend’s elections to be a “halt to the serious erosion” of human rights in Thailand.  Now she’s almost certain of victory, Yingluck cannot afford to sweep previous human rights violations under the carpet as she takes up the role of Prime Minister. Instead, I hope she takes a leaf from the history books of other female heads of state – such as Chile’s former President Michelle Bachelet or Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – who ensured that addressing human rights violations were at the top of their agenda as they took office. For there to be real stability in Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra must focus her attention on addressing the human rights crises in the country. Specifically the plight of refugees and migrant workers in Thailand is a serious one, and she must also ensure that those responsible for the scores of politically motivated killings that have occurred are brought to justice. As sister to the former Man City owner (oh yes and former Thai PM) and as the first woman Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra has a heavy mantle to carry.  If human rights and justice are at the top of her agenda, no doubt she’ll do an admirable job.

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