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Southeast Asia Lionizes ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher

A snapshot of reactions across Southeast Asia to the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher provides a rather solemn albeit positive reflection on the Iron Lady.

Thatcher, who died on April 8, 2013 at the age of 87 after a stroke, was Britain's first female leader and the first woman to lead a major Western power. The merits of her economic and social reforms, put into place over the course of her 11 years in office, remain a source of debate.

To start, a humorous photo mix-up in Thailand. Channel 5, a state-owned television, mistakenly showed a picture of Meryl Streep, as opposed to Thatcher, causing much confusion among Thai viewers. A stream of online reactions to this embarrassing saga spread across the cyberspace, prompting Channel 5 to release an apology on its Facebook page.

Thailand's state-run TV showing actress Meryl Streep as former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Thailand's state-run TV showing actress Meryl Streep as former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Saksith Saiyasombut believed the mistake was a result of a quick Google picture search:

Obviously, this was the result of a quick Google picture search and taking the next best picture that showed up. But it does beg the question whether or not this will be the last time that a TV newsroom will make such a (admittedly hilarious) mistake and confuse the real world figures with the actors playing them – we probably can expect to see future mix-ups like Hellen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II or Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela!

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Photo from Wikipedia

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Photo from Wikipedia

On a more serious note, references to the “Iron Lady” from countries with female prime ministers concluded that their leaders seem to lack the “iron quality” that Thatcher had. Chuvit Kamolvisit, a Thai MP, called Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra a “Puppet Lady” who has a lot to learn from Thatcher. Noom Maung Non wrote:

Margaret declared war with Argentina to protect the Falklands, which were far far away from England. But in [the Thai] case, the Khao Praviharn belongs to us Thai but Yingluck wants to give way to the Cambodians.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Dave Llorito wrote a piece in 2007 aptly titled “Gloria Arroyo is no Thatcher” arguing that while the former president of the Philippines tried to implement Thatcherite policies, she ultimately failed because “Arroyo lacked the soul” of the Iron Lady.

In Indonesia, a Jakarta Post reader mourned the loss of an important world leader and wished that his country could have a leader like Thatcher:

…someone with that sort of valor, the sort of dominant spirit that is not afraid. We need a piece of iron to smash corruption and inconsistency in this country.

Singapore, on the other hand, seems to have no shortage of iron-type leaders. Thatcher herself confessed on her first visit to Singapore in 1985 that Lee Kwan Yew was among the few world leaders she most admired for his leadership calibre.

Some Singaporeans agree. LesMISERABLES wrote on the Courtyard Cafe that what Thatcher did to the world paled in comparison to what Lee Kwan Yew did for Singapore. Sammyman said:

How to compare the immortal with the mere mortal like Thatcher?!?

Others disagree. User steffychun wrote on forum Sam's Alfresco Heaven:

Both are neoliberal. But Lee is dictatorial. Thatcher won elections freely.

Likewise, Johnny333 claimed:

Under LKY (Lee Kuan Yew) true unions did not exist. NTUC is nothing more than another PAP (Singapore's ruling party) organisation.

Writing on the philosophy and politics blog Philolitics, seamus23efc preferred Thatcher over Lee:

Despite me disliking both Maggie and Harry, who would I choose?

Definitely not the one who outlawed protests, freedom of speech and assembly, who engages in smearing campaigns against opposition politicians and showing disrespect to them and the ones that wages war indirectly with the working class with salaries higher than President Obama’s.

If I could choose between these two people, I would go for Maggie.

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