BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Another member of the Shinawatra family has been tipped to become the new leader of the Pheu Thai Party, and a party candidate as the next prime minister.
Ms Monthathip Kovitcharoenkul, a businesswoman in the telecom industry, is a sister of former prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra. She is the eighth of the 10 Shinawatra siblings, with Thaksin being the second eldest and Yingluck the youngest.
Formerly known as Yaowaman Shinawatra, Ms Monthathip is married to obstetrician Somchai Kovitcharoenkul. They have two children. Yingluck had earlier dismissed speculation that Ms Monthathip, 58, would become the next Pheu Thai leader, saying her elder sister had no interest in politics.
According to the embattled Yingluck, who is facing up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of negligence over her role in a state rice subsidy scheme, veteran politician Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan was more likely to head Pheu Thai.
Yingluck herself denied being the party's prime ministerial candidate ahead of the general election in 2011, before she ended up heading a Pheu Thai-led government after being elected an MP for the first time in her life.
Ms Monthathip, who has degrees in business management and public administration, previously headed M Link Asia Corporation, a company listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand that she co-founded in 1995. The firm was known as a major mobile-phone dealer, complementing the family's mobile network business Advanced Info Service (AIS). In 2015, M Link was renamed Ferrum, in which some people from the Shinawatra clan are still major shareholders.
Just a year before that, in May 2014, Ms Monthathip and her husband were fined Bt9.6 million (S$390,000) by the Stock and Exchange Commission for insider trading involving M Link.
Ms Monthathip has been tipped to become Pheu Thai's next prime ministerial candidate as it is likely that Yingluck may be stripped of her right to contest an election if she is found guilty in the case stemming from her government's rice-pledging scheme. The case is being heard by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders.
Pheu Thai needs a candidate to take Yingluck's place, and the Shinawatras seem to trust family over outsiders.