Paetongtarn Shinawatra was a consistent favourite choice for PM among the public up to the point when Pheu Thai broke off its coalition government agreement with the Move Forward Party in August this year. The decision is believed to have cost the party heavily in terms of public support. However, her emergence as party leader after October 16th may herald further significant political developments in 2024.

Despite not being among the list of cabinet ministers in the new government of Srettha Thavisin, Thaksin Shinawatra’s youngest daughter Paetongtarn looks set to be elected as the leader of the Pheu Thai Party on October 16th. There is also speculation that the 37-year-old who in recent times was the country’s most popular choice for Prime Minister may yet emerge as a contender for the role going forward.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra is expected to be a candidate for the leadership of the Pheu Thai Party when the party meets in a General Assembly on October 16th to elect new party executives. There may be some opposition to her candidacy.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra is highly tipped to become the next leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party following the resignation of Dr Cholnan Srikaew in recent weeks before he was appointed Minister for Public Health in the government of Srettha Thavisin.

62 year old Dr Cholnan is understood to have stepped down after pledging in the run-up to the May 14th General Election that the Pheu Thai Party would not, on any account, form a government with parties associated with the outgoing administration of former Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha. 

Pheu Thai reneged on its commitments to the public prior to the May 14th General Election causing severe damage to its support base in Thailand

The party leadership reneged on this commitment and allied with both the Palang Pracharat Party of General Prawit Wongsuwan and the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party of General Prayut Chan Ocha before the August 22nd breakthrough election in parliament of the current Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at the expense of its initial partnership with the Move Forward Party which was announced just days after the May 14th poll.

Thaksin and Pheu Thai have burned their bridges with its national ‘family’ and loyal support base

In the immediate aftermath of the decision, in mid-August, many committed members of the party vowed never to support it again with effigies of Ms Paetongtarn and her father being burned.

High political price may yet be paid by Ms Paetongtarn appears to be ready to take on the mantle of Pheu Thai leader in October which see further moves

Many analysts believe that Pheu Thai will ultimately pay a high political price for this move unless some way is found to rectify the matter.

The national reconciliation process spoken of after the return of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is seen as a step in that direction.

The party, on Friday, set October 16th as the date for a General Assembly to elect a new leader.

This was confirmed by Mr Prasert Chanthararuangthong, the current caretaker Secretary General of  Pheu Thai. 

Ms Paetongtarn Shinawatra is the overwhelming favourite to take on the role, having the support of many MPs in Parliament.

Ms Paetongtarn, the youngest daughter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, over the last year, had consistently come out tops in opinion polls as the country’s favourite choice for Prime Minister.

On Friday, however, Pheu Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Phumtham Wechayachai did not accept that Ms Paetongtarn was a shoo-in for the role suggesting that there may be other qualified candidates.

Paetongtarn appear to bow out for personal reasons

She is understood to have bowed out of taking a role in the current cabinet because of her active involvement in brokering a compromise behind the scenes which saw the return of her father former PM Thaksin Shinawatra to Thailand on August 22nd, just hours before Mr Srettyha was elected as Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister.

37-year-old Ms Paetongtarn was at the forefront in motivating the party’s grassroots and support base in the run-up to the May 14th General Election.

She was, however, forced to take a back seat in campaigning after giving birth to a baby boy on Monday the 1st of May at the height of the campaign after which the party also appeared to lose momentum to the Move Forward Party in the race. 

Paetongtarn Shinawatra delivers a baby boy named Thaisin as Pheu Thai spirits are buoyed the new arrival

The birth of Thasin or Prujthasin Suksawat was seen as another impetus for the subsequent return of Mr Thaksin from exile in Dubai to Thailand, being his seventh grandchild. 

Pheu Thai may yet form the original coalition government proposed with the Move Forward Party after May 2024 with Senate’s PM voting power voided

Some political commentators have not ruled out Ms Paetongtarn, at some point, joining the government either in the course of a cabinet reshuffle later in 2024 or perhaps in the formation of a new government which may come after May 2024 in the Upper House or Senate loses its power in the selection of a prime minister, something that could pave the way for the election of a Pheu Thai Move Forward coalition government which was the more popular choice with the public after the election in May.

This week, Mr Prasert appeared enthusiastic about the prospect of Ms Paetongtarn taking on the role of Pheu Thai Party leader.

‘There have been no talks at party meetings about the qualifications for being the new leader but Pheu Thai members have shown their wish to have Miss Paetongtarn, Head of the Pheu Thai family, as the new party leader,’ he told reporters.

Seen as pivotal to the return of her father

Ms Paetongtarn or Ung Ing as she is affectionately known, was to the fore at Don Mueang Airport on the morning of August 22nd last when her father stepped down off a private jet onto Thai soil to be arrested and taken before the court where he was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Thaksin may be released on October 13th as his prison status becomes a growing political target

Since then, the 74-year-old figure who has dominated Thai politics for the last two decades, a self-made billionaire, has spent nearly all his time incarcerated at a well-appointed suite within the Police General Hospital in Bangkok with consistent reports that his release may be imminent or the period of his imprisonment may come to an end after receiving a swift royal pardon on August 31st which commuted his eight-year sentence to one year in an announcement in the Royal Gazette which had some praise for the former Prime Minister and acknowledged his ill health.

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Further reading:

Paetongtarn Shinawatra delivers a baby boy named Thaisin as Pheu Thai spirits are buoyed the new arrival

Ung Ing says Prawit is better liked than PM Prayut with reports of the return of key ex-ministers

PM and Ung Ing to do battle in 2023 for the top job with public debt and the economy as key issues

3 out 4 believe that Pheu Thai will take power in 2023 with a third Shinawatra taking the reins

Possible Pheu Thai PM Paetongtarn Shinawatra promises a new society where everyone is secure

Senator warns that Paetongtarn Shinawatra or Ung Ing, Thaksin’s daughter, is wrong for the job

New Shinawatra may lead the next quest for power as Pheu Thai Party aims for 14 million members