Obama congratulates new Thai PM

WASHINGTON, Aug 13, 2011 (AFP) - US President Barack Obama congratulated Thailand's first female premier Saturday on her historic election, hailing it as a sign of the "success of the democratic process," the White House said.

In a telephone conversation, Obama and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra "underscored the enduring nature of the US-Thailand friendship and alliance, and pledged to strengthen the bilateral relationship and work together to ensure peace and stability in the Asia Pacific," according to the White House.

Obama spoke with 44-year-old Yingluck, who took office Monday, "to congratulate her on her election and the Thai people on the success of the democratic process," it added in a statement.

Yingluck swept to an election victory last month with the support of her older brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who is loathed by the elite in government, military and palace circles, and was toppled in a 2006 coup.

A businesswoman described by her brother as his "clone," Yingluck faces the tough challenge of bringing unity to the politically volatile kingdom, which has seen 18 actual or attempted military coups since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

Yingluck has formed a six-party coalition, holding three fifths of the seats in the lower house of parliament, in an attempt to bolster her hold on power.

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