The World Today for May 11, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

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THAILAND

Thai political candidate Paetongtarn Shinawatra, 36, who is the frontrunner in upcoming national elections, recently gave birth to a son, Pluenkthasinsuksawat, known by his nickname, Thasin. The baby might have brought her luck.

Paetongtarn, the scion of a family of prime ministers from the opposition populist Pheu Thai Party, is expected to defeat Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a conservative who enjoys the military’s support, when the constitutional monarchy holds a general election on May 14, reported CNN.

That would be remarkable because Thai military honchos, the monarch, and their conservative political allies have long sought to prevent Paetongtarn’s family from running the Southeast Asian nation again, noted GZERO.

Her father, Thaksin Shinawatra, who introduced popular policies like universal health care and debt relief, lost his job as prime minister in 2006 after a military coup. He currently lives in exile. The country’s constitutional court dissolved a government led by Thaksin’s brother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat in 2008. Prime Minister Prayuth, an ex-army boss, ousted Paetongtarn’s aunt, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in 2014 after a controversial court judgment.

But voters put Pheu Thai Party leaders back in power no matter how many times the military shuts the family down.

“The whole sense of caring for the poor and the downtrodden and the ability of Thaksin to communicate in a simple Thai language to the 47 million Thai people – the have-nots – there has not been any Thai politician that has been able to give an alternative,” said former Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, a critic of the dynasty, in an interview with the New York Times.

In a recent poll, the Pheu Thai Party, which advocates for left-of-center populist policies, is forecast to garner almost 42 percent of the vote, wrote the Diplomat. The Move Forward Party, a more progressive leftist opposition group, is slated to garner almost 20 percent. Prayuth’s conservative United Thai Nation Party might win less than 10 percent.

Some fear that Paetongtarn’s rise to power might trigger more instability, especially if she confronts or triggers the military, conservative politicians, and the powerful monarchy, wrote Foreign Policy.

The Thai system is arguably rigged to keep the conservative alliance in power, too, explained Al Jazeera. Voters elect 500 lawmakers to the House of Representatives. But 250 military-appointed senators also have a say in who becomes premier. The Pheu Thai and Move Forward parties together need more than 75 percent of the House, or a total of 376 seats, to form a government if the Senate is united in its opposition.

The dynasty has done it before. Will they do it again?

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