Profile: Yingluck Shinawatra

Ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra (R) speaks at the first hearing of impeachment proceedings by the military-stacked National Legislative Assembly (NLA) at the parliament in Bangkok on January 9, 2015. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ms Yingluck was a businesswoman before she turned to politics

Yingluck Shinawatra became Thailand's first female prime minister when she led the Pheu Thai party to victory in the July 2011 general election.

She remained in the post for nearly three years, until the Constitutional Court forced her to step down in early May 2014 after finding her guilty of abusing her power.

Weeks later, the military seized power and suspended the constitution, saying it was necessary to restore order after months of entrenched protests against Ms Yingluck's government.

Then things got worse. On 23 January, the military-picked legislative assembly voted to impeach Ms Yingluck for dereliction of duty over a controversial subsidy scheme which paid farmers above market rates for rice.

This means she is banned from politics for five years. She is also facing a criminal charge over the scheme - which could result in a jail term if found guilty.


Yingluck Shinawatra, a former businesswoman born in 1967, was following as prime minister in the footsteps of her more famous brother, Thaksin Shinawatra.

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Media captionThe BBC's Jonathan Head: "She was prime minister for nearly 1,000 days"

She led Pheu Thai to a landslide victory in the July 2011 general election, a year after violent protests on the streets of Bangkok.

Before the poll, Ms Yingluck, who has two degrees in politics, had never run for office or held a government post.

She had until then pursued a corporate career, formerly as managing director of AIS, the telecommunications firm her brother founded, and managing director of SC Asset Company, a family firm involved in property.

Critics were quick to point out her political inexperience, saying her main qualification appeared to be the fact that she was the youngest sister of Mr Thaksin, the billionaire who was ousted as prime minister by the military in 2006 and jailed in absentia for corruption.

They suggested her primary role was to marshal the Thaksin faithful - the mainly poor rural voters who kept him in power - and then serve as his proxy as he governed from overseas exile.

Ms Yingluck performed well on the campaign trail - people seemed to warm to her. And the Thaksin faithful backed her party in 2011 polls.

Image copyright AFP

Key facts

  • Born 21 June 1967
  • Youngest of nine children; elder brother is former PM Thaksin Shinawatra
  • Graduate in political science and business administration, master's degree, Kentucky State University
  • Married to businessman Anusorn Amornchat; has one son
  • First woman to run for the country's highest political office

Speaking to the BBC after her election win, Ms Yingluck said she planned to work hard. People would trust her, she said, as long as the government preserved the rule of law and treated people fairly.

"As long as we solve problems, I hope Thai people will give me a chance to prove myself and show my sincerity."

Three months later, she faced her first challenge as parts of Thailand were hit by severe flooding.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Voters warmed to Ms Yingluck on the campaign trail in 2011

More than 500 people died in the north of the country and a fifth of the capital ended up under water, forcing her government to announce a 100bn baht ($4bn: £2.5bn) recovery plan amid accusations it had been unprepared.

In early 2012, her government approved a compensation fund for victims of recent political unrest - allocating 2bn baht ($63m, £40.8m) to families of the deceased, as well as those who were hurt or "unfairly detained".

Ms Yingluck was also seen to establish cordial ties with two key institutions, the royal palace and the military.

But a rice subsidy policy, whereby her government bought rice from farmers at above market rates to boost rural incomes, hit Thailand's rice exports hard. Her opponents said the programme was rife with corruption and many farmers were left out of pocket.

Snap poll

It was, however, a political amnesty bill that provided the trigger for protests which foreshadowed Ms Yingluck's demise.

Her government proposed legislation allowing amnesty for those convicted of political violence that took place after the coup that ousted her brother, including the mass street protests that paralysed Bangkok in 2010.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Anti-government street protests erupted again in November 2013

It proved unpopular with some of her traditional supporters, who argued it would allow those responsible for the deaths of civilian protesters in 2010 to go free.

But it sparked opposition fury, amid fears the ruling party would use it to allow Thaksin Shinawatra back into Thailand without having to serve his jail term.

And the firm conviction among opposition supporters that Ms Yingluck's government was controlled by her brother caused some to erupt onto the streets in protest.

Ms Yingluck appealed for calm - and allowed the amnesty bill to fail in the Senate. But that did not appease the protesters, who demanded that her government be replaced with an unelected "people's council".

The government's decision to call a snap election for 2 February also failed to quell anger. The ruling party was expected to win the election and the opposition boycotted the polls, which were then declared unconstitutional.

Fresh elections were announced but the opposition called for them to be delayed and a referendum on reforms to be held.

Then the courts stepped in and removed Ms Yingluck over the transfer of her national security chief. Weeks later, the military ousted what was left of her government, leaving Thailand once again under military rule.

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