Princess' bid for PM scuttled | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 10, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:06 AM, February 10, 2019

Princess' bid for PM scuttled

Shinawatra-affiliated party to comply 'with royal command'

  • Thai Raksa Chart party announced Princess Ubolratana as its PM candidate on Friday
  • Thai king rebuked the move as 'highly inappropriate' and against royal tradition
  • Development seen as a blessing for Thai junta chief ahead of March 24 polls 

 

Thai Princess Ubolratana's unprecedented attempt to become the country's next prime minister was abruptly nixed yesterday after her party agreed to comply with a command from the king opposing the plan.

The party's announcement effectively blocking Ubolratana's candidacy came after an extraordinary rebuke by her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and removes a hurdle for the ruling junta to hold onto power after the March 24 vote -- the first since a 2014 coup.

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

The move rattled the status quo and threatened the ambitions of the generals who have controlled Thailand since they toppled the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra almost five years ago.

But the Thai king torpedoed his sister's bid in a sharply worded statement the same day that said bringing senior royal family members into politics was against tradition and "highly inappropriate."

Thai Raksa Chart responded swiftly, cancelling a campaign event yesterday and issuing a statement saying it "complies with the royal command".

Thailand has some of the most severe lese majeste laws in the world and the king's word is seldom challenged.

Analysts say the events of the past day will help the military to consolidate power and tilt the odds in favour of junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Prayut is standing as premier for the Phalang Pracharat party, a group aligned with the regime.

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.

The 67-year-old princess has yet to address the rebuke head on. She thanked supporters Saturday on her widely followed Instagram account, saying vaguely that she wanted Thailand to "move forward".

The king did not criticise the princess directly and seemed to focus blame on political party members who brought her on board.

Ubolratana is the first-born of former king Bhumibol Adulyadej.

She gave up her royal titles when she married an American in 1972, but they divorced and she moved back to Thailand.

Ubolratana is an unusually public figure for a royal, having starred in movies and maintaining an active social media footprint.

While she said she was exercising her rights as a commoner to stand for prime minister, the statement from the palace said she is she is "still a member of the House of Chakri," referring to the name of the dynasty.

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