It won't be so easy from now on
Yingluck Shinawatra's inauguration as prime minister of Thailand on August 5 last year inspired many people with the promise of reconciliation.Although the public didn't have high expectations of her, we couldn't deny that she brought a glimpse of hope.
It was less than two months that Yingluck spent on her political campaign and before she became the "chosen one" for Pheu Thai, people knew her as the youngest sister of Thaksin Shinawatra. The fact that she was a novice without political baggage was a blessing.
Has Yingluck lived up to the public's expectation? The evaluation varies. To her supporters, she has done her best in every situation and she is capable of being a leader. Some of her opponents believe she passes the test because they never expected much from her in the first place. Like many leaders around the world, she received both praise and brickbats. Whether people love or dislike her, the premier has her "moments". Here are Yingluck's finest and not-so finest moments during her first year in office.
Flawless speech. In her acceptance speech, Yingluck showed us readiness to lead the country with the right attitude. She said she expected tough challenges and scrutiny. Answering doubts on her ability as the first female leader, she said her femininity would not be an obstacle and on contrary she would utilise it and learn from people with different opinions. She vowed to bring political peace and never to favour or work for any particular person or group. Whoever wrote that script did a great job, as it was non-confrontational with a feelgood factor. Although it won't be Thailand or the world's top acceptance speech, she read it with confidence and no gaffes.
The great escape. For a newly appointed premier, tough questions are sometimes torture. During her early days in office, she managed to run away from a troop of reporters who wanted to interview her. Her entourage guided her to the lift before she showed relief with a broad smile and giggles. It was sweet and unpretentious. Surprisingly, the video and photo of her escape got good feedback and she was not bombarded for running away.
The Burberry boots. The expensive boots she wore during flood inspection drew attention from all. "She just has a good sense of fashion so there is nothing wrong with it," said an Englishwoman in our editorial room. The boots also made headlines in the international media as international news agencies reported on the social media debates. No one but Burberry won in the war of words!
Reconciliation champion. Yingluck has done what her brother and former sister-in-law Pojamarn Damapong could not. She not only succeeded in meeting with Gen Prem Tinsulanonda but also brought a smile to his face. The meeting at Government House dominated the news and photos of the two smiling were priceless. It showed her ability to cool the political temperature. Even red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan put a rubber stamp on the meeting. She showed the public that the reconciliation process is still intact.
To cry or not to cry. Whether you are on the side of "yes, Yingluck did cry (before the public)" or "No, she never cried", Google "Yingluck" in Thai and you get "Yingluck ronghai" (Yingluck crying). So many stories and videos for the search, but to be fair to her, she did try hard not to cry.
Untimely party queen. The recent party attended by political veterans including Banharn Silapa-Archa and Sanoh Thienthong when an explosion in Pattani occurred was of course not her finest moment. It was just bad luck for the premier to have to been there. While they crooned "Sook gun ter rao" (Let's have fun), the social media was full of reports on the bomb. Later, they picked up on her "party" as another reason to question her leadership.
As Yingluck comes into her second year, she can learn from all her moments especially the non-finest ones. The second year will be tougher, with people raising the bar, and her image as a political novice will not be the case. She will have to continue implementing the minimum wage raise and other populist policies and at the same time be extra careful not to call Sydney a country or welcome any leader with the word "overcome". For her, the best thing is not to ask the public to lower their expectations of her performance but the other way round.