Young members of the Shinawatra family have shown little interest in becoming politicians, preferring to work behind the scenes.
One such member of the family is Chayika “Sand” Wongnapachant, who is part of the premier’s social-media team. She is the daughter of Yaowares, one of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s older sisters.
Chayika, 35, works out of Government House and her Facebook profile says she’s not a politician, but “just another person who works in politics”. She is part of the team that updates Yingluck’s official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
The premier’s niece has spent much of her career in politics monitoring mainstream media and keeping an eye on what opposition leaders like Abhisit Vejjajiva, Korn Chatikavanij, Korbsak Sabhavasu, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut and Alongkorn Ponlaboot, say on their timelines.
She also keeps the social-media population updated on what Yingluck is up to. Her ultimate goal is creating a good image for her aunt, though she admits the team does make mistakes sometimes – a topic she is not keen to discuss.
“I realise that my job is important. Auntie Pou [Yingluck] has told me that while we are here, we should do better than others and remember that if we make a mistake, we will be attacked [by the opposition],” she said.
Chayika said she realised that many people must think she got this job because she is Yingluck’s niece. “But this is not the first time I have worked with Aunt Pou. I actually worked with her for 10 years at SC Asset Corporation and followed her when she entered politics to become part of her support team,” she said.
Chayika went on to say that she has learned an important lesson in this job – one needs to be patient and careful in politics as the public is constantly “monitoring” you.
She also discusses political issues with Yingluck, the PM’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva and Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai.
“They are my political mentors. My mum advised Auntie that she should not give me special treatment,” Chayika said.
Though her work with the PM might help her become an MP one day, the young woman says she has no political ambitions.
“I enjoy working as a member of the PM's staff. I don’t want to be in the middle of any war of words,” she said.
When asked about her cousin Panthongtae – former PM Thaksin Shinwatra’s son – recently insisted that he wasn’t interested in politics, yet he ended up playing a bigger part in political activities than his parents would have liked, she said: “I believe we should be able to decide our own careers.”
She also added that she personally wanted to learn more on the subject and perhaps become an expert.
Chayika also said that during family gatherings, the younger members avoided discussing politics.
“We usually talk about general topics such as movies and film stars – no different than other people of our age,” she said.