HM the King vetoes sister's election candidacy

10 February, 2019, 11:19 | Author: Emmett Rice
  • Thai princess to run for PM -- against junta chief

"The Thai Raksa Chart Party is highly honoured by Princess Ubolratana's bid for the party's prime ministerial nomination", the party said in a statement.

The main opponent of the princess, if her nomination were to stand, would be Prayuth, who also announced his candidacy on Friday, as the candidate for a new pro-military party, set up by his loyalists.

Her political leanings have never been explicit, but the princess was photographed with Thaksin and his sister, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, last year.

Prayuth had been considered the front-runner for the March 24 polls because changes in the constitution and election rules implemented by his government make it hard for political parties without military backing to capture the prime minister's post.

The princess did not respond directly to her younger brother's efforts to cancel her bid. The king is above politics and holds a position of respect. Only after a bitter divorce did she move back permanently to Thailand in 2001. She and her father won a gold medal in sailing in the 1967 Southeast Asian Games. "In the event Thaksin-aligned parties win the election, it makes it very hard for the military and royalists to contest, protest, or seek to overturn the result".

The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, announced the princess as their candidate on Friday morning. Her full name is Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi. She made no known public appearances Friday.

Prayut, in sharp contrast, is a domineering, splenetic character - an autocratic former general who since he seized power has repressed the naturally rambunctious instincts of Thai politics and society in the self-serving cause of stability. "She understands democracy", he told reporters.

Before the king's statement, Ubolratana had issued a statement on Instagram saying she has "no special privileges above the Thai people under the constitution".

"I want to see all Thais having free rights, a chance, prosperity and happiness", she said, concluding her post with #ILoveYou.

Palace officials could not be reached for comment.

Parliament has had members who were distant relatives of the monarch.

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"Can people treat her like a commoner?" Like Princess Ubolratana, he is not a sitting MP.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Chulalongkorn University said: "This is a profound development that will shape the contours and dynamics of Thai politics before and after the election".

Ms Ubolratana, the eldest child of King Bhumibol, was born in Lausanne in 1951.

Ubolratana relinquished her royal title in 1972, when she married American Peter Jensen; the two had met as students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The princess engages actively in social media and has also starred in several Thai movies. She also frequently promotes Thai tourism and movies at global forums.

It was not immediately clear if Ubolratana would be covered by the kingdom's widely interpreted royal defamation law - which carries up to 15 years in jail per charge - or how that could impact debate and criticism in the run up to elections. While much still remains unclear, the royal shockwave has defied traditional thinking about modern Thai politics in some ways while also compounding uncertainties around Thailand's upcoming elections and the country's political future. Traditionally, Thailand's royal family has had close ties to the military.

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.

Thaksin went into exile in 2008 to avoid serving prison time on a conflict of interest conviction he insists was political.

But Ubolratana's sudden entrance into politics, aligned with the junta's nemesis - the Shinawatra family - undercuts those claims.

Since ascending the throne in 2016, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has reorganised palace affairs.

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

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