Red Star

That winning smile

Yingluck Shinawatra


Born in 1967, Yingluck Shinawatra comes from a wealthy family of Chinese descent. She later earned a bachelor’s degree from Chiang Mai University and a master’s from Kentucky State University, both in public administration.

Why is she famous?

Shinawatra is the current Prime Minister of Thailand and also its first female leader (and youngest too). She is the younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister and wealthy businessman now living in self-imposed exile after being deposed in a military coup in 2006.

Why is she in the news?

Shinawatra became one of the most-talked-about subjects on weibo after her image was splashed on the front pages in October as host to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Chiang Mai. In one of the most widely trending topics online, netizens unabashedly discussed her physical attractions and “beautiful smile”. Newspaper editors at Global Entrepreneur, a magazine, even opted to put her face on its latest cover with the headline: “How Yingluck does it”.

“She is the prettiest world leader I have ever seen! If she is so pretty now she must have been an absolute stunner 20 years ago,” one netizen wrote.

“Yingluck’s image, temperament and taste make her a beautiful spot on the international political arena. Many country leaders are captivated by her elegance,” declared Yoka Men, a men’s fashion site.

Li Keqiang certainly looked a little smitten. During his visit, he was photoed grinning widely at her. “Li Keqiang falls for Yingluck,” joshed the Apple Daily. “A Chinese reporter said Li is normally reserved but he was melted by Yingluck and the two often ignored the translators and had direct conversation in English.”

China News Weekly reckons Yingluck did a great job in encouraging investment from China to, reporting that a number of Chinese entrepreneurs are “fans” of hers and are requesting meetings. “Yingluck usually won’t refuse as long it brings opportunities for cooperation with Thailand. She always smiles, talks patiently and then poses for photos with Chinese entrepreneurs,” says the publication, admiringly.

In an interview with Globe magazine Shinawatra said that she is a quarter Chinese and so “has a special sense of intimacy with the Chinese people”. She also seems attuned to China’s growing economic importance to the Thai economy. After the movie Lost in Thailand became a huge hit in China last December (see WiC177), she invited its director Xu Zheng to meet her in Bangkok, thanking him for the surge in Chinese tourists that the film had brought. She also made a point of inviting other Chinese directors to shoot films in Thailand too.

One things’s certain: beneath the smile there’s evidently a lot of savvy too…

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