The Shinawatra family tree

[This is a rough summary translation of our original post in Thai. New Mandala readers who can read Thai should go here for the full length article. The English spelling of names in this article are not official. The photos are from the just-published book titled “เผ่าพงศ์วงศาตระกูลชินวัตร” (The Shinawatra Family) by ธนวัฒน์ ทรัพย์ไพบูลย์ (Thanawat Suppaiboon). ISBN 978-616-243-022-0.]

Shinawatra as a political family

With Yingluck elected as the first female PM, last Friday is not only a historical day in Thai politics. It is also a historical day for the Shinawatra family, since the clan now has three Prime Ministers (the second one is Somchai Wongsawat, who is the brother-in-law of Thaksin).

Having three PMs makes Shinawatra a prominent political family. It becomes an important family like Pramoj (ปราโมช), Vejjajiva (เวชชาชีวะ) or the former “Ratcha Khru Group” (กลุ่มราชครู – Choonhavan/Adireksarn/Thapparansi).

If we count only the number of PMs in the family, the Shinawatra surpasses the Pramoj brothers and are now tied with Nehru-Gandhi of India (though the level influence is debatable).

On the surface, Shinawatra is Thaksin-centric. It is very true that he is the leading (and sole) force to bring the family to power. But digging back deeper, Thaksin is not the first member in the family who entered into politics. The Shinawatra family has been involved with politics long before Thaksin, and accumulated “political experience” that Thaksin could utilize.

To understand Shinawatra family better, we need to look back from the start. Thaksin, Somchai and Yingluck is just the fourth generation of this overseas Chinese family.

A compact family tree of the Shinawatra family.  Members who entered politics shown in orange. Red indicates a Prime Minister (click for larger image)

First generation

The first ancestor of the Shinawatra family is “Seng Sae Ku” (เส็ง แซ่คู) or “Ku Shun Seng” in Chinese naming format. He came from Guandong province in his early teenage years around 1860. He first stayed in Chanthaburi for a while, moved to Bangkok and then to Chiang Mai for the cattle business. He married a Thai woman and they had nine children.

Second generation

The first child of Seng was called “Chiang” (เชียง ชินวัตร). He helped his father in the cattle business and switched to silk trading. The family then pioneered the silk industry, turning it from local handicraft to a complete silk business. The corporation name was Shinawatra Thai Silk (ชินวัตรไหมไทย). They changed their surname from the Chinese clan name to Shinawatra in 1938.

 Chiang Shinawatra and wife (sitting, center)

Third generation

Chiang married a Thai local woman and had 12 children. The important children are:

  • Kemthong (เข็มทอง) the first child, daughter. She oversaw the family silk business and then married. Later, she moved to Bangkok and started her own silk business in the Sukhumvit area.
  • Sak (ศักดิ์) the second child. He was a soldier and father of Chaisit, former Army Chief.
  • Lert (เลิศ) the fourth child. He is the father of Thaksin and Yinglak.
  • Suraphan (สุรพันธ์) the seventh child. He succeeded Lert’s political career.

Lert is the most outstanding child in the third generation. He first helped the family business but later moved to start his own, non-silk, business. He started with a cafe in Sankamphaeng, Chiang Mai, then expanded his business portfolio to orchards, theater, bus line, car dealer and gas station. Once he turned 48, he entered local politics as a member of Chiang Mai Provincial Council. In 1969, he entered national politics as a Chiang Mai MP (Chuan Leekpai served his first MP term this year, the same freshman term  as Lert). Lert served two terms and retired after Kukrit Pramoj (คึกฤทธิ์ ปราโมช) dissolved the house in 1976, just months before the 1976 massacre.

Suraphan, the seventh child, succeeded Lert in politics. He became a Chiang Mai MP. The peak of his political career was as Deputy Minister of Transport in Chatichai Choonhavan’s cabinet.

There is one more family member who enter politics. Sujate (สุเจตน์) the fifth child also became the mayor of Chiang Mai city.

Thaksin helped his father during Lert’s reign at MP. He often visited Lert’s office in Parliament and helped Lert’s election campaign. Yingluck’s story is the same. Politics is not a new thing to the fourth generation of Shinawatra children.

Fourth generation

Two most important family lines in fourth generation are Sak’s and Lert’s.

Sak’s line

Sak had four children. Two of them are top soldiers in the Thai Army. General Chaisit (ชัยสิทธิ์) was the Army Chief and his brother General Uthai (อุทัย) is the Permanent Secretary of the Defense Ministry.

Chaisit later entered politics as a Pheu Thai candidate in Ratchaburi. He lost in the 3 July 2011 election but he is still active in the Pheu Thai Party.

Lert’s line

Lert married Yindee Ramingwong (ยินดี ระมิงค์วงศ์), a descendant of the Chiang Mai royal family. They had 10 children.

  • Yaowalak (เยาวลักษณ์) – deceased
  • Thaksin (ทักษิณ)
  • Yaowares (เยาวเรศ)
  • Piyanut (ปิยนุช)
  • Udon (อุดร) – deceased
  • Yaowapa (เยาวภา)
  • Payap (พายัพ)
  • Monthatip (มณฑาทิพย์) – her former name is Yaomal (เยาวมาลย์)
  • Thatsanee (ทัศนีย์) – deceased
  • Yingluck (ยิ่งลักษณ์)

Lert and his daughters: (from left) Yoawares, Yingluck, Monthatip(?), Yaowapa

There is no need to talk about Thaksin’s biography any more. Let’s focus on his brothers and sisters who entered politics.

  • Yaowalak was the first female mayor of Chiang Mai city. She died in 2009. Thaksin did not attend her funeral because of his exile.
  • Yoawares had a silk business in Phuket and Pattaya. She then sold her silk business and moved to mobile phone and construction. She appeared in hi-class society. It is said that now she oversees Pheu Thai’s southern activities.
  •  Yoawapa or “Dang” (แดง) was a key figure in Thai Rak Thai Party. Her husband is Somchai Wongsawat, 26th PM of Thailand. Somchai came from a justice career. A former judge, then Permanent Secretary of Justice and Permanent Secretary of Labour. One of their daughter, Shinnicha (ชินณิชา) is current Pheu Thai’s Chiang Rai MP.
  •  Payap is Thaksin’s only brother. He was a well-known investor in the Thai Stock Market. Now he oversees Phue Thai’s northeastern areas.
  •  Yingluck is the last daughter. She is the current Thai PM.

This is a very good photo of Shinawatra Family. It seems to be Yingluck’s wedding ceremony. Who’s who:

  1.  Lert
  2. Thaksin
  3. Potjaman
  4. Yaowares
  5. Yaowapa
  6. Somchai Wongsawat
  7. Payap
  8. Yingluck
  9. Anusorn Amornchat, Yingluck’s husband
  10. Panthongtae
  11. Pinthongta
  12. (seems to be) Paethongtarn

Damapong family

Thaksin married Potjaman Damapong (พจมาน ดามาพงศ์) and they have three children. Potjama’s family is also important in Thai politics.  (After her divorce, Potjaman now uses her mother’s maiden surname, Na Pombejra (ณ ป้อมเพชร). Potjaman’s maternal family is distant relatives with Abhisit’s wife.)

Potjaman’s family is a police family. Her father, Samor Damapong (เสมอ ดามาพงศ์) was a Deputy Police Chief. Her brother and Thaksin’s friend, General Preopan Damapong (เพรียวพันธ์ ดามาพงศ์) was also a Deputy Police Chief.

Potjaman has one adopted brother, Bannapot (บรรณพจน์ ดามาพงศ์). He was active in Shin Corporation and now his wife, Bussaba (บุษบา ดามาพงศ์) is the new CEO of SC Asset, after Yingluck’s resignation from the post.

Preopan’s wife, Pensome (เพ็ญโสม ดามาพงศ์) also sits on the SC Asset board.

The current SC Asset board members. Two from the Damapong family and the other one is Thaksin’s second child, Pinthongta.

Summary

As in other political families around the world, a family member who gains the top job is often not the first one who entered politics. JFK’s political will comes from his father and maternal grandfather.  Jawaharlal Nehru was the son of Indian National Congress core member.

Thaksin got wealthy from the Shinawatra’s silk empire (though he started a much bigger telecom empire on his own) and political knowledge from his father and uncle. Finally he succeeded in achieving his (and his family’s) goal to become PM. Now is the time to pass his power to other family members.

Unambiguously, Somchai and Yingluck’s premiership are “accidents”. But this kind of “accident” happens many time around the world (especially in Asia). In the longer term, we need to closely watch the succession of Shinawatra next generation.

Pinthongta as a PM in 2030?

About Siam Intelligence Unit, Guest Contributor