Thaksin's niece happy to remain out of political limelight

THAILAND - Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's son, Panthongtae "Oak" Shinawatra, recently turned down a suggestion by Pheu Thai politicians that he become a party MP candidate and Thaksin's political heir. His regular Facebook writings have been highly praised by the ruling party's politicians.

Another young member of the family, Chayika "Sand" Wongnapachant is playing a behind-the-scenes role as part of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's social media team. She is the daughter of Yaowares Shinawatra, who is Thaksin's younger sister and Yingluck's elder sister. Chayika has adopted her father's surname.

This 35-year-old niece of Thaksin is a political appointee at Government House. Her Facebook profile says she is not a politician, but rather "just another person who works in politics".

She is part of the group that runs the prime minister's official social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She has spent much of her career in politics monitoring mainstream media and following the views of opposition opponents on social media. She keeps a close eye on the Facebook pages of five leading opposition Democrat Party figures, including Abhisit Vejjajiva, Korn Chatikavanij, Korbsak Sabhavasu, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, and Alongkorn Ponlaboot.

Chayika tries to connect Yingluck with the middle class and younger generations by reporting regularly about the PM's work. Her ultimate goal is creating a good image for the PM, but sometimes mistakes made by her team do occur - something she was not keen to talk about.

"I realise that my job is important. Aunt Pou [Yingluck] told me that we are here and we have to do better than others. If we do well, it's fine. But if we make a mistake, we will be attacked hard," she said.

Chayika says she is aware that people may realise she has reached this point because she is the PM's niece.

"It's not the first time I have worked with Aunt Pou. Actually, I worked with her for 10 years at SC Asset Corporation. When she entered politics, I followed to be part of her support team," she said.

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