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Thai PM escapes Bangkok woes

Publication Date : 15-12-2013


Thailand's embattled caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra receives roses from supporters during her visit to a royal project in Chiang Mai yesterday.

Yingluck cheered by welcome from supporters in home town; returns to face the music today

The last appearance of Shinawatra seen in Bangkok was when she could not hold back her tears during a press interview about demands from anti-government protesters that she and her family leave the country.

"I have backed down to the point where I don't know how to back down any further," Yingluck said with tears briefly formed in her eyes and trying her best to remain composed and strong.

That happened on Tuesday, the day after she dissolved parliament.

Normally, the globe-trotting leader has had a habit of flying out of Thailand to foreign countries to get away from political heat. But the current situation is far from normal and prevents her from getting away abroad.

Yingluck spent five days in her hometown in Chiang Mai and stayed away from the capital, where thousands of anti-government protesters continue their rally, a short distance from her office at Government House.

Originally, her trip north was set only for Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, she was scheduled to chair a meeting with the head of government offices on how to solve fog and smoke pollution problem in the North. On Friday, her main duty was to ride a special train from Chiang Mai to Lampang with several ministers.

But her journey from Bangkok to her hometown began a day early. She flew to Chiang Mai on Wednesday night.

The PM appeared with a broad smile and delight when she was greeted by thousands of supporters at the northern airport. She was welcomed by chants of "fighting fighting", plus flowers, hugs, kisses, and a poster that said "Chiang Mai people love PM Yingluck". A Buddha amulet from a revered monk was also given to her.

On Thursday, as well as chairing the pollution meeting, she also chaired a video conference with governors in the South about ongoing problems from flooding. She was also greeted by red-shirt supporters in front of the city hall.

A tweet from @jeerapong_nna said Yingluck told reporters who covered her duties in Chiang Mai "I feel heartened here [in Chiang Mai]."

In the train to Lampang on Friday, there were loud cheers and chants of support. A group of kamnans and village headmen were seen waiting to see the premier when the train stopped at Lamphun.

She waved her hand through the train window to greet supporters. And in Lampang, Yingluck rode in a horse carriage, a well-known means of transport in that city, to greet local people.

The premier was supposed to come back to Bangkok on Friday but she opted to stayed overnight in her hometown for a third day.

Yesterday, she visited Doi Mon Jam tourist attraction in Chiang Mai. You can see on her Facebook page how she had a happy moment, taking photos with hilltribe children with a backdrop of beautiful scenery.

Like they say, there's no place like home.

Yingluck enjoyed much on familiar ground, where everyone and everything appeared to comfort her and greet her with a homecoming welcome. She was seen in a very good mood and always with a smile on her face. If there were tears in her eyes, they came from joy. And her journey would have helped her forget the tension and drama in the capital.

The North is her world. But the deeper question is how long she can escape from reality.

Yingluck will return to Bangkok today and has planned her next trip to the Northeast - her party's political stronghold - in the coming week.

It is not wrong for a leader to stay in her hometown or to travel upcountry, but there are questions about what is the most appropriate course of action at any given time.

While the political impasse remains and people from all parts of society have asked for national reforms, would it have been better to confront the crisis and try to help solve it, than seeming to want to escape it?


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