History of Women in Politics in Thailand
Table of Contents
The Kingdom of Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia with 68.1 million populations.UN, 2010 For the adult age group, the gender ratio is 49.2% males and 50.8% females. The economy of Thailand is based on agriculture, foreign direct investment industries and tourism. The main exports are rice, seafood, office equipment, textiles and clothing, rubber, car and IT spare parts, amongs others.
Thailand is the only country in south-east Asia that has never been colonized by Western countries. The monarchy and the military have helped to shape its society and politics. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand assumed the throne in June 1946 and is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. Thailand has a constitutional monarchy. The monarchy is revered by Thai people.
A historical perspective
The long history and unique cultures of Thailand recorded that women played vital roles in politics and government by saving countries from invaders as following:
- Somdet Phra Sri Suriyothai was the royal consort of Phra Mahachakkaraphat and the first heroine in Thai history. In 1548 (AD) when the Burmese army intruded Ayutthaya, Somdet Phra Sri Suriyothai, clad in a warrior’s suit, interrupted the fighting between the King and Phrachao Prae of Burma and was cut to death. Her death saved Ayutthaya from another attack from the Burmese.
- Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Si SunthonIn: in 1785(AD) the Burmese attacked Phuket. Captain Francis Light, a British East India Company passing by the island, sent word to the local administration that he had observed Burmese forces getting ready to attack. Then Than Phu Ying Chan, the wife of the recently deceased governor, and her sister Mook assembled the forces they could find. After a month-long siege, the Burmese were forced to retreat on 13 March 1785. The two women became local heroines, receiving the honourary titles Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Si Sunthon from King Rama I.
- Thao Suranari is another lady that played a vital role in saving the country from Chao Anuwong of Vientien, in 1826(AD). Thao Suranari (also named ‘Ya Mo’ by the locals) was originally Khun Ying Mo, the wife of the assistant governor of Nakhon Ratchasima. In honour of her bravery, King Rama III honoured her as ‘Thao Suranari’.
There are statues of these 4 ladies located in Ayutthaya, Phuket and Nokorn Rajsrima provinces for people to pay respect and they are also touristic places for tourists to visit.
In 1932 Thailand was changed from the Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy and in the first constitution of 1933 women were given the same voting rights as men, making Thailand one of the first Asian countries in which women acquired the rights to vote.
Since then, 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index regarding the role of Thai women in public affairs have gradually changed as the society has been modernized and educational opportunities for women have increased. The spread of Western ideas has promoted the notion that women have the capacity to take on duties long held to be the prerogative of men.Gender politics makes a difference: Experiences of the Heinrich Böll Foundation across the world. Information gathered and prepared by Dr. Sutada Mekrungruengkul for Heinrich Böll Foundation, Southeast Asia Regional Office, January 15, 2011
Social Watch’s Gender Equity Index 2009 shows that Thailand’s gender gap is not narrowing. As regards to education and the economic activity, the situation of Thai women has generally improved respectively to 99% and 62%, but when it comes to empowerment the level attained is a low 56%. The level of women’s empowerment does not necessarily depend on a country’s wealth, and a high level of economic development does not have to result in gender equity.
In the 2006 general elections 52.22% (12,000,372) of voters were female, 47.78% were (10,972,706) male. In the latest election for Governor of Bangkok, in 2009, 54.56% (1,435,842) of voters were female, 45.37% (1,193,964) male.
In the political arena, however, Thai women are underrepresented. In 2006, 1,027,666 more women than men went to the polls, yet less than 8.7% of MPs were female; in 2010, the figures stood at 15%. In the 59th Cabinet (December 20, 2008), there were 8.5% women (three women, 32 men), in the 58th Cabinet (September 24 – December 2, 2008) there were 14.2% of women (five women, 30 men). The result of the latest election on the 3rd July, 2011 showed that the proportion that people voted for women’s Member of Parliament were increasing from the previous time in 2007.http://www.socwatch.org/node/515
The current figure of women MPs are 78 persons or 15.6 % while the previous time were only 55persons or11.46%.AS the result of this general election Thailand got first woman Prime Minister Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra with 3 women Ministers in her cabinet.
The Senate of the Kingdom of Thailand is the upper house of the National Assembly of Thailand (Thailand’s legislative branch). The number of female senators has risen to 25, although proportionately it remains at a low 16.4%. For the elected senators the number of women elected has risen to 14, or. 17.9% and for the appointed senators the figure is 11, or 14.9%.Wikipedia, available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senate_of_Thailand
In local government, substantial changes occurred when the Local Administration Act allowed women to take up the posts of village head and sub-district head. In 2009, 9.33% of elected provincial governors (there are 76 Provincial Administration Organisations) and 4.8% of elected Tambon (district) governors were women (there are 6,060 Tambon (districts).Department of Local Administration, Ministry of the Interior
Yingluck Shinawatra, first female Prime Minister: A short biography
Yingluck Shinawatra was born in Chiang Mai province on 21 June 1967. She married with Mr. Anusorn Amornchat, a business man and got one son. She is a member of the Pheu Thai Party. As a result of the General Election on 3 July 2011, her party won the landslide voting for 265 seats, so she became the 28th Prime Minister of Thailand. She is Thailand’s first female Prime Minister and at 44 is the youngest Prime Minister of Thailand in over 60 years.Office of the Election Commission of Thailand
She received a bachelor’s degree from Chiang Mai University and a master’s degree from Kentucky State University, both in public administration. She became an executive in the businesses founded by her elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, and later became the president of property developer SC Asset and managing director of Advanced Info Service. Meanwhile, her brother Thaksin became Prime Minister, later was overthrown in a military coup in 2006 and went into self-imposed exile after a military-appointed tribunal convicted him of abuse of power.Compiled by BBC Monitoring
Yingluck’s main campaign theme was reconciliation following the extended political crisis from 2008 to 2010, culminating in the military crackdown on protesters which left nearly a hundred protesters dead and thousands injured. She promised to empower the Independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (ITRC), the panel that the opposition party the Democrat Party-led government had set up to investigate the killings. The ITRC had complained that its work was hampered by the military and the government by that time.
Ms.Yingluck Shinawatra described a 2020 vision for the elimination of poverty. She promised to reduce the corporate income tax from 30% to 23% and then 20% by 2013 and to raise the minimum wage to 300 baht per day and the minimum wage for university graduates to 15,000 baht per month. Her agricultural policies included improving operating cashflow to farmers and providing loans of up to 70% of expected income, based on a guaranteed rice price of 15,000 baht per ton. She also planned to provide free public Wi-Fi and a tablet PC to every schoolchild (a Thai Rak Thai Party plan to provide one laptop per child was cancelled after the 2006 military coup).
Ms.Yingluck Shinawatra quickly formed a coalition with the other 4 parties, giving her a total of 300 seats. Outgoing Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon said that he accepted the election results, and after having talked with military leaders, would not intervene. Army Commander Prayuth Chan-ocha, normally a vocal critic of Pheu Thai, refused to give any interviews.
In her first post-election Facebook post, she said that her top priorities were peoples’ livelihoods and national reconciliation. She promised truth, justice and rule of law for all, and asked people to work together to achieve her 2020 vision.
Following the general election, the first separate session of the House of Representatives was held in the morning of 5 August to select a new Prime Minister: 296 of the 500 members of parliament voted to approve the premiership of Ms.Yingluck Shinawatra. Somsak Kiatsuranont, President of the National Assembly, advised and consented King Bhumibol Adulyadej to appoint Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra to be Prime Minister on 8 August 2011.
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon welcomed the outcome of the elections and called for all parties to “respect the will of the Thai people as expressed through the democratic process.” Aung San Su Kyi congratulated Ms.Yingluck, praised the election as “free and fair,” and expected “the ties between Myanmar and Thailand to get better.”
The first challenge for Ms. Prime Minister was the major floods that occurred during the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand. Provinces located in the Chao Phraya and Mekong River basin, including Bangkok and surrounding neighborhoods were most severely affected directly or indirectly by floods. Flooding also affected most provinces in the south of Thailand. Flooding began around July 2011 and continued until December 2011. Over 12.8 million people were affected, and World Bank estimated damages reached 1,440 billion baht (45 billion USD as of December, 2011). As of December 3rd, 2011 some areas still remained 6 feet underwater and many factories remained closed.
The World Bank’s estimate for this disaster means that it ranks as the world’s fourth costliest disaster as of 2011, surpassed only by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Kobe earthquake in 1995 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The flooding damaged about six million hectares of land, over 300,000 hectares of which is farmland, in 58 provinces, from the North to parts of the capital city of Bangkok near the mouth of the Chao Phraya River. It has been described as “the worst flooding yet in terms of the amount of water and people affected”. Seven major industrial estates were flooded by as much 3 meters (10 feet).
So far, Ms.Yingluck Shinawatra could handle the situation and start the rehabilitation process of the affected areas by implementing her policies as promised to the Thai citizens, by setting up a priority plan from 1-3 years. She expects to be in the position of Prime Minister for 4 years.
The information in this article was compiled from local newspapers, the BBC, CNN and Aljahzera as well as:
- The Office of the Election Commission of Thailand
- Social Watchm available at: http://www.socwatch.org/node/515
- Information gathered and prepared by Dr. Sutada Mekrungruengkul for Heinrich Böll Foundation, Southeast Asia Regional Office, January 15, 2011
- The World Bank, available atL http://www.worldbank.org