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Profile: Yingluck Shinawatra

07 May 14 10:19
This handout picture taken and provided by the Thai Government on 28 November 2013 shows Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra addressing reporters during a press conference at Government House in Bangkok

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 May 2014 after finding her guilty of abusing her power.

The former businesswoman, who is 46, was following as PM in the footsteps of her more famous brother, tycoon-turned-politician Thaksin Shinawatra.

Pheu Thai's landslide victory in the July 2011 general election came a year after violent protests on the streets of Bangkok. Under Ms Yingluck, Thailand enjoyed relative stability for just over two years.

But a failed attempt to pass a political amnesty bill in November 2013 reignited simmering tensions, fuelling long-standing claims that her government is controlled by her brother, who was ousted from power and lives in self-imposed exile.

Protesters returned to the streets, leaving Thailand's bitter divisions once again exposed.

Ms Yingluck called a snap election, which was disrupted and later annulled. The battle to oust her then moved to the courts, which her supporters say are biased.

'Two competencies'

Before the 2011 election, 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 Thaksin Shinawatra, the telecommunications 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.

In July 2011, the same voters who had put her brother in power backed the Pheu Thai party, which formed a ruling coalition.

Speaking to the BBC after her election win, Ms Yingluck said she planned to work hard.

"My family is a political family plus I have experience in business - I have been running a listed company for 20 years - so I will use the two competencies together to help Thailand to improve, especially in terms of the economy," she said.

After several politically turbulent years in Thailand, 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," she said.

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

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, the 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 Thaksin Shinawatra, including the mass street protests that paralysed Bangkok in 2010.

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 want her government 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. Whether this will appease the protesters, however, and end Thailand's political crisis remains to be seen.

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