Can Yingluck step out of Thaksin’s shadow?
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Can Yingluck step out of Thaksin’s shadow?

As commented in a recent post:

Prime Ministers have few official powers, but the Cabinet reshuffle and the dissolution is when a Prime Minister can flex their muscles. While Abhisit was popular, he was able to do this and Yingluck is the same. Obviously, Thaksin overshadows everything, but he only has indirect control. He can’t make Yingluck put the names of Ministers down on the list. He also can’t get rid of her either so he has to adapt. As long as Yingluck remains popular, her power will grow


“People didn’t know me the first day when I stepped from the business environment into politics,” Ms Yingluck told the Financial Times. “I was new to politics, but I was not new to the business side. After some time, I think I have proved I can handle and overcome all surprises.”

Critics point to the elevation of some Thaksin loyalists after the recent expiry of a five-year court ban on their political activities. But her promotion and retention of favoured ministers outside the Thaksin camp, including finance minister Kittirat Na-ranong, showed growing assertiveness, according to Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor at Chulalongkorn University.

“Yingluck has increasingly come into her own,” he said. “She listens to Thaksin but he controls [the ruling] Pheu Thai party more than she does. It’s like he is chairman of the board and she is CEO.

BP: An apt analogy by Thitinan and one that BP would agree with.

From the press briefing on Air Force One, en route to Bangkok, Thailand, you have Q&A with Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications:

Q: And the Prime Minister and her brother — one of the reasons that they’ve had trouble domestically is this health care program for the poor that he originally put in place. I’m wondering if the President can relate to that at all or has thought about that.

MR. RHODES: I think every country has extraordinary challenges in providing health care or helping their people achieve health care. I think we have spent enough time in our own domestic politics working on the health care issue so we’ll refrain from getting into health care debates in other countries. Obviously, the broader goal of caring for the sick and providing health care is one that is shared around the world.

Q: Yes, but I just thought maybe it would be a bonding point.

MR. RHODES: Yes, well –

Q: He wasn’t kicked out in a coup, but almost.  [BP: Almost?]

MR. RHODES: Well, again, what we’ll say is the Prime Minister is Yingluck; it’s not her brother. So she’s the one that we deal with. And it’s not uncommon for the President to talk to his counterparts about their respective domestic challenges, but I’ll leave it to them to figure out what to talk about.

BP: This is Thaksin’s problem. He is not in the room when there is a meeting. He can try to set overall strategy, but he doesn’t have control over the implementation. As Thitinan says he is the Chairman, but she is the CEO. The longer she is PM and popular, the more Thaksin’s influence wanes, but for now he still overshadows her albeit less each day.

btw, interesting that the only Thailand question from the White House Press corps was about healthcare…