The Leaderboard: Oak Panthongtae Shinawatra

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.Who is he?

Panthongtae Shinawatra, nicknamed Oak, is the only son of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. At 33 years old, he is a wealthy young man, having inherited a large portion of his father’s telecommunications business, Shin Corporation. His family sold a large portion of Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings of Singapore in 2006, and he went on to co-found an internet television business, called VoiceTV, with his sister in November 2009.

Panthongtae Shinawatra. Source: Prachatai's flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (left) with Panthongtae Shinawatra. Source: Prachatai’s flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Why is he in the news?

The Bangkok Post reported on October 6 that Thaksin, whose younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra is now Thailand’s prime minister, may be grooming his son Oak to enter Thai politics as a member of the Pheu Thai party in the 2015 elections — when the second term of the Yingluck government is set to expire. Oak has become more involved in politics lately, according to reports, participating in Pheu Thai activities and travelling to different parts of the country to meet citizens affected by the recent flooding. He has also used his Facebook page to comment on political issues and counter opposition positions from the Democrat Party.

What can we expect from him?

Although Khun Oak has publicly denied that he is interested in becoming a politician, the inclination is clearly in his DNA. As Thailand considers amnesty legislation that would allow his father’s return to the Kingdom, Oak will increasingly be in the political limelight. Amnesty provisions being discussed would likely prohibit Dr. Thaksin assuming political office, but as Yingluck’s ascendance demonstrates, the former prime minister is attracted to levels of loyalty wrought by blood and family connection. A recent study by King Prajadhipok’s Institute recently ranked Thailand as the most dynastic political system in the world. Oak Shinawatra may be on a path that helps confirm that research.

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