In 1932, women acquired the rights to vote and stand for election in Thailand following the change from the absolute to constitutional monarchy. During the five decades between 1949 and 2000, there was little growth in the representation of women, and women’s participation in electoral politics continued to remain minimal, although women consistently exercised their right to vote. The number of female parliamentarians has not kept pace with the considerable advances women have made in other areas. Women are often not recruited to run for elective office and are therefore unable to accumulate the experience and expertise needed to make them a viable force in politics.
However, the number of voter turnout shows that women have active involvement in political activities and elections even though in the political arena, however, Thai women are underrepresented. In the 2006 general elections 52.22% (12,000,372) of voters were female, 47.78% were (10,972,706) male.[i]
Regardless of the high number of women voter turnout, less than 8.7% of MPs were female; in 2010, the figures stood at 15%. In the 59th Cabinet (December 20, 2008), there were 8.5% women (three women, 32 men), in the 58th Cabinet (September 24 – December 2, 2008) there were 14.2% of women (five women, 30 men).
In the latest election on 3rd July, 2011, the female candidates were only 19.2% which is 4.2% lower than male candidates.
The result of the 2011 election showed that the proportion that people voted for women’s Member of Parliament were increasing from the previous time in 2007. 16% of the House of Representatives members are women (79 out of 500).[ii]
One of the obstacles for women to involve as political party candidates is educational level. As in the 2007 Constitution, the amended requirement has reduced the number of potencial women candidates who lack university degree. Many women leaders at the local level who do not have a university degree became disqualified from running for elected office at the national level. The high educational profile of parliamentarians has thus only served to reinforce elitism in national politics.[iii]
[iii] Kazuki Iwanaga, Women in Politics in Thailand, Working Paper No 14, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, 2005