And so on to Thailand. She is a constitutional monarchy with a king, a queen and a naughty crown prince. It will be insulting to Queen Sirikit to call her a First Lady. She is better than that. The wife of the prime minister of Thailand is called the wife of the prime minister.
Now to Laos. No First Ladies here. And if perchance there were any, they would be as rare as sighting the legendary white elephant.
Singapore ? They have a President as Head of State, so they should have a First Lady. But when one cannot even remember the president’s name why bother the First Lady ?
Brunei is a sultanate in the old tradition. Changes in wife are more frequent than changes in government. And then there are favourite queens and consorts. No identifiable First Ladies here.
Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy in theory but not always in practice. The current King, Siharmony is a bachelor. Well,six down and four to go.....
A prominent Indonesian social historian said this of Tien Suharto, the wife of the late strongman: “When Suharto rose to power, people believed that his wife had the ‘wahyu’, the flaming womb, and whoever united with her would get the ‘wahyu’. After her death the wahyu has gone”.
Now to Vietnam. The First Lady here is extremely discreet perhaps on account of a notorious predecessor, Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu. She was the wife of the brother of the President of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, a bachelor and a devout Catholic circa the 1950s and early 60s.
She and her husband, Ngo Dinh Nhu moved into the Presidential Palace. The government than was a family business- the brothers, wives and relatives of the president held plum ministerial posts and appointments.
In this milieu, Madame Nhu first passed herself off as First Lady-in -law. Later like our UMNO baru saga, the inconveniently attached words were dropped. Madame Nhu once famously said : “Power is wonderful. And total power is totally wonderful”.
Later still when the Buddhist monk Thich carried out an act of self-immolation in protest against the persecution of Buddhists, she called his act a “barbeque”.
The one and only ! Over a span of some 50 years she was ASEAN's longest running soap opera. Compared to her, ‘Desperate Housewives’ is tame stuff indeed. She famously and variously said the following:
“If Imelda can make it, everybody else can “
I have left out Malaysia ! I am getting old and unpatriotic! And forgetful too. Do we really need to talk about our ‘First Lady’ ? We leave that to our free and unfettered press.