In the race for Thailand’s top government positions, a potential milestone lies ahead. If she secures the post, Prawikan Kramsak becomes the first woman in the country’s history to hold such an esteemed position. This groundbreaking achievement could pave the way for more women to follow in her footsteps. However, achieving gender balance in the government remains an uphill battle.
Thailand welcomed its first female Member of Parliament back in 1949, a momentous occasion that took place 17 years after the country’s transition from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. Despite this, it was only in 1988 that a woman first held a ministerial position. Supattra Massadit took on the role of Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, a position she maintained until 1990.
In its pursuit of gender equality, the Prime Minister’s Office has been more progressive than other branches of the Thai government. Yet the ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Justice continue to fall behind, still awaiting their first female appointees.
Globally, the slow pace of gender equality in government is not exclusive to Thailand. The Inter-Parliamentary Union notes a mere 26.8% global average of women represented in national parliaments. This discouraging figure underscores the need for change across countries and political landscapes.
To offer some perspective, The Nation examined the number of female ministers during the administrations of three distinct Thai prime ministers: Abhisit Vejjajiva from 2008-2011, Yingluck Shinawatra from 2011-2014, and Prayut Chan-o-cha from 2014-2023.
During PM Abhisit Vejjajiva’s tenure, three women held ministerial positions:
1. Ranongrak Suwanchawee (Minister of Information and Communications Technology)
2. Kalaya Sophonpanich (Science and Technology)
3. Pornthiwa Nakasai (Commerce)
The following administration under PM Yingluck Shinawatra saw five women in ministerial roles:
1. Sukumol Kunplome (Culture)
2. Krisna Seehalak (Prime Minister’s Office)
3. Nalinee Taveesin (Prime Minister’s Office)
4. Sansanee Nakpong (Prime Minister’s Office)
5. Paweena Hongsakul (Social Development and Human Security)
Lastly, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government featured four women ministers:
1. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul (Tourism and Sports)
2. Atchaka Sibunruang (Industry and Science and Technology)
3. Apiradi Tantraporn (Commerce)
4. Trinuch Thienthong (Education)
Overall, while progress may be slow, the possibility of a groundbreaking appointment in Thailand’s government stands as a shining example for what the future may hold. As more nations strive for gender balance in their political systems, it is vital not to forget the journey that brought us to this pivotal point, and the importance of continuing to break down barriers for women in government.