Thailand’s Yingluck makes most of the feelgood factor

Thailand’s Yingluck makes most of the feelgood factor

Dr Feelgood, a British blues rock band, never approached the fame of the Beatles or the Stones or even the Kinks, but they were mesmeric performers who had a great rapport with pub crowds in the east end of London.

Among the band’s more memorable numbers was The Feelgood Factor, a song about a woman who possessed that quality. Its chorus goes like this:
She got what you want, She got what you need, It’s the feelgood factor and it’s guaranteed

The lyrics came to mind last Wednesday when Yingluck Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, attended a sumptuously colourful garden party marking King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 84th birthday.

Without doubt, Yingluck has the feelgood factor.

As she moved among the glittering throng of gowned ladies, bow-tied men, uniformed officers, diplomats and bureaucrats, as well as some plain folks and lowly journalists, she was like a
celestial magnet.

Everyone, including senior members of the cabinet and normally august ambassadors, pressed towards her, eager to exchange a few words and have their photograph taken with her.  

What was most striking was that she never missed a beat, never let the radiant smile drop, never failed to return a wai or a friendly greeting.

Despite her relative political inexperience, Yingluck, 44, appears to the manor born and it looks likely that while some under-performing ministers may soon fall by the wayside, she’s definitely in for the long haul.

The feelgood factor, which radiates from her, has spread over Thailand and swamped the cynicism and despair caused by the relentless civil unrest and social polarisation that resulted from the disastrous military coup of 2006.

And despite recent lethal floods of biblical proportions, there is now a sense of relief and calmness, accompanied by a conviction that her government will last, and that while it may have ups and downs, it will not do anything crazy.

What accounts for Yingluck’s incredible feelgood factor? Well, for starters, the Thaksin factor can be dismissed as the major reason for it.

Yes, earlier this year, her elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, did pick her to lead the Pheu Thai Party that would represent his interests in the July 3 election.

And yes, his name and funds and political acumen did help propel her to victory in those polls.

But it’s one thing to get that kind of backing, it’s quite another to capitalise on it and leave your opponents in the dust, and then, having won in a landslide, to hold down the post of prime minister and retain popular support.

Perhaps we should not be so surprised. After all, aside from the feelgood factor, Yingluck, who has a master’s degree from the United States and is a former company managing director, is known to be savvy and self-assured.

A well-connected business consultant, who has been in Thailand for decades and is not easily impressed, recalled that when he invited Yingluck to seminars, she always attended and “always participated and asked the best questions”.

She has already acquired the political knack of avoiding blame and is now referred to in the local media as “the Teflon Lady”.

In a poll earlier this month, three times more people blamed the opposition Democrats for causing the floods than blamed Yingluck’s government, and twice as many blamed the Democrat-aligned Bangkok governor.

In fact, the opposition, led by former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, has performed dismally and appears unable to offer much in the way of constructive criticism aside from ritual and increasingly boring anti-Thaksin jibes.

As one ambassador said at the King’s birthday gala said: “Who cares about that? If any Thais do, it’s because they want Thaksin back. So harping on about it is a lose-lose tactic for the Democrats.”

He’s right. Meantime, Yingluck’s popularity continues to rise. A recent poll gave her a 68 per cent positive rating.

As the song says: She got the feelgood factor and it’s guaranteed.

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