BANGKOK – In Thailand Men hugely dominate the list of candidates for prime minister in Thailand’s first general election since a military coup in 2014, even though women outnumber them in the population as a whole.
Of the 68 aspirants from 44 parties, eight are women. In contrast, Thailand’s population is 51 percent female, and two-fifths of chief executives are women.
The highest profile among the eight is Sudarat Keyuraphan from the main opposition Pheu Thai party, which is linked to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Pauline Ngarmpring also hit the headlines as the first transgender person to seek the top political job.
For a short while this month, it looked like Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya would also be in the mix. But a shock bid by another party allied with Thaksin to nominate her rapidly unraveled when King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a royal command saying the monarchy is above politics.
Thailand ranks as one of the worst in the world for gender inequality in politics. About 5 percent of the military-appointed legislature is female, placing the nation at 181 out of 193 countries in a 2017 index of women in parliament, according to the United Nations. Yet years of educational equality have enabled women to make great strides in other sectors, such as finance and insurance, where they account for more than half the workforce.
The male candidates in the Feb. 15 list from the Election Commission include Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the 64-year-old junta leader. He spearheaded the coup in 2014 that unseated a Pheu Thai government headed by Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Yingluck was the first and only female prime minister of Thailand since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.
Parties contesting the election can put forward up to three candidates for prime minister. The upper and lower houses of parliament will vote to select the leader after the March 24 election.
By Randy Thanthong-Knight