Shinawatras to visit Hong Kong days before Thailand's national polls

Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra at an event in Tokyo in March last year.
PHOTO: AFP

Hong Kong is set to play host this week to Thailand's powerful Shinawatra clan just days ahead of Sunday's general election - but the gathering has nothing to do with the closely watched polls.

Instead, the family led by self-exiled patriarch Thaksin Shinawatra will be in the city for the wedding on Friday of Paetongtarn "Ing" Shinawatra - the former prime minister's youngest daughter - to Pidok Sooksawas, a professional pilot.

This Week in Asia understands some senior members of the Pheu Thai party loyal to the family are expected to grace the ceremony before flying back in time for Sunday's polls.

Alongside Dubai-based Thaksin will be his sister Yingluck, another former prime minister who is also in exile after being deposed by a coup.

The siblings - both linchpins of their political bloc - frequent Hong Kong and use the city as a base for meeting Thai politicians.

Ing and Pidok's reception will be held at the Rosewood Hong Kong just days after the ultra-luxury hotel in the city's Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront district first opened its doors to guests.

Expectations are high that the event will be an extravagant affair, with guests flying in from around the world. The couple held their traditional engagement party in Bangkok on Sunday, with Thaksin speaking to the couple via video link.

Later he said on Instagram he was looking forward to the festivities in Hong Kong.

"Today was another special day for me as my daughter Ing got engaged to Por," he said, using Pidok's nickname.

"There is no other happiness greater than to see the happiness of one's children," the 69-year-old wrote. "May you be happy my child, and we shall meet at your wedding in Hong Kong [and] I will have one more son-in-law."

Yingluck meanwhile posted a picture of her brother viewing the engagement party via video link, seated in front of a laptop.

"The two of you don't just make your family very happy. I am also very happy to see that both of you love each other so much," wrote Yingluck.

Supporters flooded the Instagram feeds of Ing, Thaksin and Yingluck with well wishes.

One commenter wrote in response to Yingluck's post featuring her brother: "I cry when I see this. Wishing everyone can come together as a family in the homeland once again."

Thaksin has three children: Panthongtae "Oak" Shinawatra, Pintongtha "Aim" Shinawatra, and Ing.

The three siblings and their mother Pojaman Damapong own 60.4 per cent of SC Assets, a major housing developer that is part of the clan's vast business empire.

The family's investment firm Rende developed the Rosewood Bangkok property, where Sunday's engagement party was held.

The police officer-turned-telecoms billionaire has been in self-imposed exile since 2008, while Yingluck left the country in 2017. The siblings say they have little choice but to remain in exile after being slapped with multiple corruption and negligence charges which they claim are politically motivated.

Thaksin was deposed as prime minister by a coup in 2006 after coming to power in 2001. His sister held the same office from 2011 until the coup in 2014 by current junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is seeking to remain in the top job with the help of the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party.

Recent polling suggests that the pro-Shinawatra Pheu Thai Party is likely to emerge as the biggest in the 500-seat parliament after Sunday's election - the first since the coup - but that may not be enough to form a government under rules set by Prayuth's administration.

Thaksin has in recent months avoided public commentary about Pheu Thai, which is the latest political vehicle of the rural-backed populist movement he founded in the late 1990s. It is loathed by the country's establishment elite, and previous political parties linked to the Shinawatras have been banned.

The junta issued veiled threats of banning Pheu Thai after Thaksin spoke about the party's chances in interviews with Japanese media in Hong Kong last year.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post