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Baby delivered, Thai candidate ready to resume campaign


BANGKOK (AP) — A popular candidate for Thailand’s premiership said Wednesday that she is eager to get back on the campaign trail two days after giving birth.

Speaking at a press conference at the hospital in Bangkok where she gave birth, Paetongtarn Shinawatra said her new baby boy would not affect her ability to rally support for her Pheu Thai celebration. with just under two weeks to go until the election.

“I believe good things come with children,” she said, sitting next to her husband, Pidok Sooksawas. “I believe that children are my secret strength to work and live daily life.”

The newborn, Prutthasin Sooksawas, was brought into the room in a rolling incubator and briefly shown to the media before being taken out again.

Paetongtarn is the youngest daughter of Thaksin Shinawatra, the popular but divisive former prime minister who was overthrown in a 2006 military coup. She is also the niece of Yingluck Shinawatra, whose reign met the same fate eight years later.

Thaksin, who has been in self-exile since the 2006 coup, tweeted Monday after the birth that he would like permission to come home to see his grandchildren, ending the tweet with “Goodbye.” He lives abroad to escape a prison sentence for abuse of power, a conviction he has described as politically motivated.

Paetongtarn downplayed the meaning of the message, saying it was just a natural expression of a grandfather who was “very happy and excited.”

Thaksin is a popular but divisive figure in Thai politics, and there are concerns his return could be destabilizing.

“Of course the things he said would have a political effect,” she said. “However, as a family, I think there’s nothing wrong with hoping for that, especially if something good happens to the family.”

Paetongtarn campaigned during her pregnancy. She and the Pheu Thai Party have consistently topped polls as Thailand’s preferred prime minister and next government candidate. She took the opportunity on Wednesday to underline that she was 100% sure of a landslide victory.

“I would ask the Thai people to stand firm because this vote is unlike any other,” she said. “Thailand can’t just hope for the best. Thailand needs change, and only the Pheu Thai Party is now the best answer for the Thai people.”

Analysts have complimented Paetongtarn on her confident public appearances, though her father’s residual popularity remains a factor behind her popularity, especially among poor and working-class Thais. Thaksin, a populist billionaire, defended poor people during his years in power and reaped the rewards during the elections.

Even if the Pheu Thai Party wins a major victory in the May 14 general election, there is no guarantee that Paetongtarn will become prime minister. The highest post is selected in a vote involving both chambers of parliament. So is the Senate, which is appointed by the junta led by current Prime Minister and candidate Prayuth Chan-ocha, rather than by the public. Prayuth won all of the senators’ votes after the 2019 election.


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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.