Thai party to comply with royal order against princess PM candidacy: statement

Minnie Murray
February 10, 2019

But the Thai king torpedoed the bid in a sharply worded statement later the same day that said bringing senior royal family members into politics is against tradition, national culture and "highly inappropriate".

The nomination pits the princess against current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the preferred candidate of the military, considered one of Thailand's most royalist institutions.

The announcement effectively invalidates Princess Ubolratana's unprecedented bid for prime minister in March elections and comes after an extraordinary rebuke of her candidacy by her younger brother Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Her candidacy instantly threatened to upend the first national ballot since a military coup in 2014 that ousted a government loyal to Mr. Thaksin, the figure at the centre of years of political turbulence and rival street protests that have riven Thai society.

Thailand's royal family is seen as semi-divine, but Ubolratana resigned her royal title of princess in 1972 when she went to college in the United States.

The selection of the elder sister of Thailand's king as a political party nominee for prime minister has upended a tradition of the palace playing no public role in politics.

Yet a small party that supports the junta later Friday submitted a letter to the Election Commission objecting to the nomination of the princess, saying it should be suspended as it could violate election law. The army eventually ousted him from the prime minister's office in a 2006 coup.

On Friday, one of the parties supporting Prayut had filed a petition opposing Ubolratana's candidacy, arguing it could breach a law that prohibits the use of the monarchy in campaigning.

The decision by a party linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra to nominate her marks a monumental shift for Thailand, where the royal family is officially treated as semi-divine and apolitical.

Her involvement gave a royal sheen to the political machine of Thaksin Shinawatra, the self-exiled billionaire whose parties have won every election since 2001.

Ubolratana's candidacy is still not completely secure just yet - the Thai Election Commission needs to endorse her candidacy, and we have yet to get a sense of how this move fits in with other dynamics within the royal family including her relationship with her brother, including indications of a potential roadblock by Vajiralongkorn on constitutional grounds.

The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, announced the princess as their candidate on Friday morning.

Thai Raksa Chart's statement said the party loyally accepted the king's order and expressed deep gratitude to Princess Ubolratana for her kindness toward the party.

Thai politics for more than a decade has been shaken by violent street protests, coups and comebacks, but those are familiar events in Thai history.

The simmering conflict between the Bangkok-centered elites and the more rural-based populists has resulted in street protests, military coups, and violent clashes for nearly 15 years.

The Thai Raksa Chart Party was launched in November by relatives and supporters of the Shinawatras.

An Election Commission official said it is reviewing all candidate applications and will finish the process this week, though few expect it to divert from the royal order. And it means next month's election may prove a genuine contest, not merely a joyless coronation of Prayut Chan-o-cha, leader of the military junta. She studied mathematics and bio-chemistry at MIT and earned a master's degree in public health from the University of California at Los Angeles.

2003: Ubolratana stars as a princess in a soap opera set in the Ayutthaya period, "Kasattriya".

She was seen at the 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation smiling with Thaksin and Yingluck and has over the junta years given a number of coded nods on social media in favour of the Shinawatras.

Ubolratana is the first-born of former king Bhumibol Adulyadej. She returned to Thailand in the late 1990s after getting a divorce. "The provisions also cover the queen, heir-apparent and royal family members close to the king".

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