Princess Ubolratana disqualified as Thai PM candidate

Clay Curtis
February 11, 2019

The candidacy would have broken with the tradition of the Thai royal family publicly staying out of politics.

That ends a bold gambit by the anti-military coalition to boost its popularity and insulate itself against charges of being anti-monarchy, by having the king's flamboyant older sister Ubolratana run for prime minister, although her nomination can not be legally withdrawn.

The Thai Raksa Chart party had announced Friday that Princess Ubolratana, who is 67, would be the party's prime minister nominee for the March 24 election.

Broadcast on all Thai TV networks, the statement said: "Even though she has relinquished her royal titles in writing, she maintained her status and carried herself as a member of the Chakri dynasty".

But the king issued a statement which said: 'To bring a senior royal family member into the political system in any way is against royal traditions and the nation's culture. which is very inappropriate'.

Thailand's Election Commission will consider on Monday the surprise nomination of a Thai princess as a prime ministerial candidate for March elections after her brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, called it "inappropriate" and unconstitutional. It is unlikely its members would disregard the wishes of the king, who while a constitutional monarch, is considered semi-divine in Thai society.

Members of the royal family should be "above politics" and therefore can not "hold any political office", the commission said in a statement, echoing the wording of a public statement from the king on Friday.

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Shortly after the king's statement she posted again without addressing the issue directly, simply thanking Thais for their support and saying that she wanted Thailand to "move forward and become admired and accepted by the worldwide community". The current junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has also declared candidacy for a pro-military party.

The nomination of the king's older sister, who has starred in soap operas and an action movie was a shocking move.

The panel did not mention a separate petition seeking to ban Thai Raksa Chart on the grounds that it violated election laws against using the monarchy in campaigning.

Parties loyal to Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon, have defeated pro-establishment parties to win every election since 2001.

Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile in England since he was deposed.

The gambit of nominating a member of the royal family could backfire on Thai Raksa Chart, said Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the faculty of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University.

If the party is dissolved, it could give more seats to anti-Thaksin affiliated parties, he said, although there are other parties loyal to the ex-premier contesting the election.

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