Life for children of leaders in trouble could be a challenge

Being children of a country’s leader is certainly not easy. Life for them at times can be tough with unwanted attention. And particularly in this online world, the challenges they face can be even tougher than before.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s twins, like the children of his predecessors, have learned this fact the hard way. Though Prayut’s daughters, Thanya “Ploy” and Nittha “Ploen”, have maintained a low profile, they are still being targeted and accused of all sorts of wrong doings, ranging from money laundering to using their father’s authority to get into college.

For a long time, the twins shrugged off the hatred and kept quiet, but they reached the end of their tether when the #FindPrayut’sKids campaign was launched on Twitter. Vociferous critics of Prayut, who as Army chief toppled an elected government in the 2014 coup, began demanding that his daughters be located, pulled into the public spotlight and closely scrutinized.

One tweet carried their photo with a caption: “They’ve been missing for several years now. Not sure where they are enjoying their life of luxury and spending money stolen from taxpayers #FindPrayut’sKids”.

Another read: “They’ve never appeared in media and have guarded their privacy to the point of arousing suspicion.”

After the hashtag began trending, the twins released a statement last week, declaring that they would sue people, groups, entities and media that defamed them. They also dismissed all the allegations against them under their very own #FactsaboutPrayut’sKids hashtag.

Contrary to the allegations, the twins said they had never studied in Australia as alleged by their detractors and had only visited the country once, during childhood.

The siblings, now in their 30s, also rejected claims they were gifted a mansion in Britain by a Sino-Thai tycoon, adding they had never lived in Britain.

The twins went on to insist they had never failed academically, rebutting claims that their father helped them enroll in a master’s degree programme only to see them flunk.

They said they studied at the Chulalongkorn University’s elementary and secondary demonstration schools. This should come as no surprise given that their mother, Assoc Prof Naraporn Chan-o-cha, lectured at the university back then.

The twins said they later completed bachelor’s degrees at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Communication Arts and graduated with second-class honours.

“We do not have a social-media account. We don’t want any attention as we do not want any privileges we may receive as the prime minister’s children,” they said.

However, Thanya and Nittha used to be members of the BADZ band, which released an album under the RS label in 2006 before fading from public view, especially after their dad became Army chief in 2010.

Prayut is known to have shielded his daughters from the public spotlight. This is understandable given that some protest leaders in early 2014 called on their supporters to hold the twins hostage or even kill them if he staged a coup.

Under a mother’s wing

Back in 2013, then-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra also publicly urged protesters to leave her son alone.

This was reportedly after a parent at her son’s school blew a whistle in the child’s face; whistleblowing was a feature of protests against her government led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Yingluck’s son, Supasek “Pike” Amornchat, was only 10 at the time.

Since Yingluck was often seen with her son, her enemies often included the child in their tirades against her, aiming comments that would have upset anybody.

In 2017, all eyes were on Supasek after his mother fled Thailand just before she was sentenced to jail by the Supreme Court over her government’s corruption-plagued rice-pledging scheme. Yet, despite the drama and scrutiny, the young man stayed calm and did well in his studies, graduating secondary school with distinction.

His first cousins faced even tougher challenges. The three children of Yingluck’s older brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a fugitive just like his sister, have been subjected to harsh treatment by Thaksin haters.

When the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy took to the streets to oust Thaksin’s government, the premier’s only son became the target of criticism and ridicule.

His younger sisters also became subjects of scorn. In 2006, a university lecturer reportedly asked Thaksin’s college-going youngest daughter, Paetongtarn: “Oh you still haven’t quit?”

Six years later, a Cathay Pacific stewardess on a flight taken by Paetongtarn posted on Facebook that she hated the Shinawatras so much that she wanted to pour something on her head.

Thaksin’s other daughter, Pintongta, has also felt the sting of public discrimination though at a lesser level on the overall very likely because unlike her two siblings, she has not actively fought back by using social media to make political comments.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)