Sudarat Keyuraphan: Riding on anti-military wave to political rebirth
Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, widely tipped to become only the second female prime minister of Thailand, has more political experiences than most other prime ministerial candidates. Having been a leading figure in male-dominated Thai politics for decades, she deserves the true status of the country’s “iron lady” despite having a big mountain to climb in this election.
Born in 1961, she joined the Palang Dharma Party in early 1990s and, thanks to an elegantly academic style, immediately became one of the party’s and Thai political circle’s brightest rising stars. She became close to Thaksin Shinawatra after the latter took over the Palang Dharma Party from then-leader Chamlong Srimuang. She helped Thaksin found the Thai Rak Thai Party in 1998.
Since joining Palang Dharma, the Thai capital kept electing her member of Parliament. Her rare election heartbreak came in 2000 when she was beaten soundly by late Samak Sundaravej in a Bangkok gubernatorial race, which the latter won in a landslide fashion. Later, Samak would became prime minister following the dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai Party and its reincarnation as the People’s Power Party, partly thanks to Sudarat’s political ban in the wake of the Thai Rak Thai dissolution. After Samak was disqualified from the top job, Sudarat could only watch as the prime ministerial post went to Somchai Wongsawat.
When the People’s Power Party reincarnated as the Pheu Thai Party and following a red shirt uprising in 2010, Sudarat again watched Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, becoming prime minister. But like every diehard male politician facing political storms, Sudarat kept going, carrying out behind-the-scene political work and foundation activities.
Throughout her political career, Sudarat has served in various government positions, remarkably as agriculture minister (2005-2006), public health minister (2001-2005), deputy interior minister (1996), deputy transport minister (1994-1995) and deputy government spokesperson (1992). The political positions spanned across the governments of Chuan Leekpai, Banharn Silapa-archa and Thaksin.
As one of the executives of the Thai Rak Thai Party, Sudarat was banned from politics for five years after the 2006 coup.
She was born in Bangkok to Mr. Sompon Keyuraphan and Mrs Renu Keyuraphan. Her father was an MP representing the Nakhon Ratchasima province. Sudarat studied at the prestigious St. Joseph Convent School and earned Bachelor Degree from the Chulalongkorn University’s Commerce and Accountancy Faculty and Master’s Degree from Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration. In 2018, she earned her Doctoral Degree from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Buddhist studies.
She is married to Mr. Somyos Leelapunyalert, a real estate businessman, with whom she has three children.