Somewhat belatedly — but as promised! — here are my notes from the remarks Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made to journalists and others at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) dinner here in Bangkok on Fri., March 23.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of what she said — see the links to news reports below for that — but rather my observations from the evening that stand out, several days on.
First, a note on language: Yingluck choose to give the speech in English. As others have observed, she is a conversational English speaker, but she is not as fluent as her older brother, the exiled, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. And of course, her English is not nearly as smooth as her predecessor, the British-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva.
This meant that Yingluck’s speech lacked, perhaps, some of the nuance and technical details that it might have contained had she had delivered it in Thai, with an interpreter there to provide her remarks in English. (There was, however, an interpreter near the stage who helped her make sense of some of the more complex questions from journalists.)
I heard one member of the audience refer to Yingluck as being “coquettish.” I wouldn’t go that far, but she did seem to make every effort to be charming. She smiled frequently and appeared to be quite humble. And, before beginning her speech, she asked the audience to “please be kind to me, na
kapka,” simultaneously claspping her hands together in a wai and bowing. (Corrected March 28. Thanks to a commenter for pointing out the error.)
Later, when one journalist asked a somewhat complicated question about whether she and Thaksin were playing a “double game” in which they pitted various establishment factions against one another, she responded by saying she didn’t really understand the question. But, she added, grinning: “…I never play games.” This produced some laugher from the audience.
Asked why, following last year’s floods and the upcoming minimum wage hike, multinational companies should continue to invest in Thailand, Yingluck said that investors will continue to recognize Thailand’s long-term business potential, as well as its location in the middle of Southeast Asia.
I spoke with some people who noted that some of Yingluck’s answers seemed somewhat vague or lacking in specifics. But these same observers said they felt that most professional politicians are focused on evading hard-hitting questions and sticking to their talking points.
In his first FCCT speech, former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was asked about his musical tastes. He noted that he liked hard rock bands like The Killers, Oasis, and Metallica, among others.
So, on a lighter note, when asked what kind of music is on her iPod, Yingluck declined to note specific artists. But she did say, with pride, that she has some 5,000 songs on her device. She prefers “easy listening” music, she said.
Ultimately, my sense was that PM Yingluck’s performance was unlikely to sway most audience members’ opinions of her. Those who already disliked her were probably not won over by her grace or good humor.
Similarly, those who already like her were probably not put off by any of her perceived shortcomings.
(Image: The Nation.)