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After year of peace, trickier times ahead for Thai PM

BANGKOK (Reuters) - With the help of her photogenic looks, disarming personality and popular appeal, Thailand's first female prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has helped maintain a fragile peace since being swept to power in a divided country one year ago.

by FP Staff 04 Jul 06:00 am IST

     

BANGKOK (Reuters) - With the help of her photogenic looks, disarming personality and popular appeal, Thailand's first female prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has helped maintain a fragile peace since being swept to power in a divided country one year ago.

The political neophyte, who leapt from running a boardroom to governing the country in less than three months, has surprised critics and reassured investors by rebounding from devastating floods and building ties with the top brass of a military entrenched in Thailand's rough-and-tumble politics.But the honeymoon might not last much longer and the reason for that lies with her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former premier whose political machine catapulted her to power.Thaksin, a former telecoms tycoon, was toppled by the army in 2006 and has chosen to live in exile rather than serve a two-year jail term for graft. He is loved by the working class but loathed by Thailand's royalist military and conservative elite.The big policy pledges that got Yingluck elected - minimum wage increases and rice price guarantees for farmers - have sparked an outcry from exporters and businesses, but the tension is all about her Puea Thai party's unspoken election platform: the return of Thaksin absolved of his graft conviction."She came into politics at a difficult time. She's managed pretty well, considering what she's been up against," said a Western diplomat in Bangkok. "But no one is in any doubt that Thaksin is in charge."Thaksin is widely believed to sign off on virtually every move his sister makes, including cabinet appointments. On one occasion, he lectured her ministers in a teleconference and party officials frequently fly out to see him in Dubai, where he is based, or elsewhere.Yingluck's coalition has control of three-fifths of parliament, which has given Thaksin the breathing space to try to consolidate power from behind the scenes, shoring up old allegiances in the police, business and the....
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