Yingluck must put nation first
published : 16 Nov 2013 at 00:00
newspaper section: News
One may sympathise with the predicament Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is in. Over the past two-plus years, and for the rest of her term as prime minister of Thailand, the choice between family and country is never going to be easy to make.
Her mandate as the elected leader is to work for Thailand's best interests, at least in theory. In practical terms, she carries some baggage called family, including all its interests.
She was never expected to enter politics - never groomed for it, trained for it or had any experience in it. Likely the thought of politics had never entered her mind. Then suddenly, it landed on her lap, over the period of just a few months.
The thing is that Thailand and the Thai-Chinese community champions the family unit. Whether in business or politics, the family is ever present. Never underestimate its cultural importance. As a younger sister - youngest in fact - of a Thai or Thai-Chinese family, obedience to elder family members, especially the patriarch, is the norm, the honourable, time-honoured, expected and righteous thing to do.
It is also safe to presume that all her appointments to high-ranking executive positions in the business world were made possible by her brother, the patriarch. This isn't to say she doesn't have any skills or talents. But a lot of people have skills and talents, though not everyone has a brother who is a business tycoon.
In addition, once she entered politics, she was surrounded by men and women who answered to one person only.
Her political party was built for that one person. Her support basis of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship was created for the interests of that one person.
That one person is her brother and her benefactor, Thaksin Shinawatra.
So what is the prime minister to do? Everywhere she turns she sees her brother.
When planning a direction or making a decision, what is the prime minister to choose first: the interests of the family; or the interests of the country, namely 65 million people?
Puppet, clone or whatever other insults one might throw at her, she's the youngest sister in a Thai-Chinese family. All of this is as expected. Having said that, there comes a time when everyone must grow up. This is especially pertinent, if one is the elected leader of a nation, a nation in crisis no less.
The prime minister need not dump her baggage; no one should discard their own family. But she needs to switch her priorities to become strong and resolute in her role as the leader of this country. This of course is to optimistically assume that deep in her heart, she truly wants the best for Thailand.
One cannot teach the prime minister how to deal with her baggage, but one may point to two examples of female leaders.
Love or hate Margaret Thatcher, she was her own woman and she made her own decisions. She was the Iron Lady, she was the leader.
Aung San Su Kyi gave up everything, her personal safety and freedom, and she left her family behind in England, to make sacrifices for her country.
Leadership means one must be made of stern stuff. If one can't stand up for oneself, how can one stand up for one's country? Between the choice of family and country, as the prime minster, Ms Yingluck must choose the country first, in every single decision.