Monday, December 15, 2008

Good-Looking Oxford PPE Graduate Becomes PM...of Thailand

If anyone can be PM in Malaysia, can the same 'good-looking Oxford PPE graduate' become a PM? No, I'm not talking about the beruk. (Speaking of which, where is he now btw? Trying a second baby with porpoise?)

Abhisit Vejjajiva (12 December 2008)
Abhisit Vejjajiva hails from a wealthy family of Thai-Chinese
origin
Abhisit Vejjajiva
is the English-born, Oxford-educated 44-year-old leader of Thailand's opposition
Democrat Party.

Young and photogenic, though by no means dynamic, he has a reputation for
"clean politics".

Distinctly upper-class, Mr Abhisit hails from a wealthy family of
Thai-Chinese origin. Both his parents were medical professors.

He was born in the British city of Newcastle in 1964 and educated at
England's top public school, Eton. He then went on to gain a degree in politics,
philosophy and economics (PPE) at Oxford University.

Mr Abhisit's support is drawn mainly from southern Thailand and from
Bangkok's educated middle-classes. He has had less success in attracting the
support of working class and rural Thais.

In 1992, Mr Abhisit joined Thailand's oldest party, the Democrats and, at the
age of 27, entered parliament as one of its youngest ever members. Having tried
and failed to become party leader in 2001, he eventually got the post in 2005.

Championing a raft of populist policies, Mr Abhisit campaigned under the
slogan "Putting People First".

Anti-corruption platform

While not entirely ditching the liberal reforms of "Thaksinomics" - a term
used to refer to the economic set of policies of exiled former Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra - he has argued for a more statist approach.

Among other things, Mr Abhisit has advocated free healthcare, a higher
minimum wage, and free education, textbooks and milk for nursery-school
children.

Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife, Pojaman (31 July 2008)
Mr Abhisit opposed the Thai military when it overthrew Thaksin
Shinawatra

He has also been a consistent campaigner against corruption.

When Mr Thaksin called a snap election in February 2006, Mr Abhisit said he
was "prepared to become a prime minister who adheres to the principle of good
governance and ethics, not authoritarianism".

Later that year, he opposed the military when it overthrew Mr Thaksin in a
coup.

"We cannot and do not support any kind of extra-constitutional change, but it
is done. The country has to move forward and the best way forward is for the
coup leaders to quickly return power to the people and carry out the reforms
they promised", he said at the time.

The patrician also expects high standards of probity from his party and any
government he would lead.

Going beyond the current transparency rules for Thai MPs, he would require
all future Democrat Party representatives to declare their assets and any
involvement in private companies. Currently, those measures apply only to
cabinet members.

Academic

Before entering parliament, Mr Abhisit had a brief academic career. After
Oxford, he taught at Thailand's Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.

Later, he returned to Oxford to study for a Master's degree. He then taught
economics at Thammasat University before studying law at Ramkhamhaeng
University.

Failure and material hardship are not common features in Mr Abhisit's family
history. His family is a circle of accomplished individuals.

One of his two sisters is a professor of child psychology, while the other is
a leading Thai author.

Mr Abhisit's wife is a dentist-turned-mathematics lecturer at Chulalongkorn
University. They have two children.

If there are any chinks in the Abhisit armour, it is perhaps that his good
looks tend to outshine his rather bland political pronouncements.


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