Women in Thailand still bereft of political power

Women remain grossly underrepresented in Thailand's politics and government and a major shift in the country's attitudes is required to address the imbalance, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday.

The report, Women's Right to a Political Voice in Thailand, noted that women hold only 10 percent of the seats in the national parliament, one of the Thai Cabinet's 36 ministerial posts and one of the country's 76 provincial governor posts.

Though women hold fewer positions of power than men worldwide, they are marginalized more than the average in Thailand, said the report by the U.N. Development Program and the multinational non-government organization Women for Democratic Development Foundation.

"Closing the gender gap in politics needs to be a top priority in all countries, not just Thailand, and will produce better governments and better policies for the benefit of all," the UNDP's Thailand representative Joana Merlin-Scholtes was quoted as saying in a news release.

The report, issued ahead of Thailand's general election on Sunday, said the Thai government has failed to meet targets it set in 2004 to increase women in parliament, local government bodies and top positions in the civil service.

Women are only 10 percent of the outgoing members of parliament, putting Thailand in 113th place out of 185 countries around the world, the report said.

"This is worse than most countries in the East and Southeast Asia region, with the exceptions of Cambodia, Malaysia and Japan," it said.

The worldwide average for female representation in parliament is 15 percent to 16 percent, reports the AP.

I.L.