Thai election panel disqualifies Princess Ubolratana as PM candidate

Leroy Wright
February 11, 2019

Ubolratana Rajaka, Princess of Thailand, attends "Thailand Hub of Entertainment", a film and entertainment industry event for investors, in Hong Kong March 24, 2010.

The Thai political party that nominated a princess as its candidate for prime minister could be banned from election next month after an activist said yesterday he would file a petition seeking its dissolution.

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having the king's flamboyant older sister Ubolratana run for prime minister, although her nomination can not be legally withdrawn.

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.

Ubolratana stunned the kingdom when the Shinawatra-aligned Thai Raksa Chart party announced early on Friday that she had accepted an invitation to be its prime ministerial candidate in the upcoming general election on March 24 - the first since a coup in 2014.

In an Instagram post Saturday, the princess, without mentioning her brother or her dashed political plans, thanked her supporters for their "love and kindness" and expressed a desire to see the country expand rights and opportunities for citizens.

A spokesman for Thai Raksa Chart said the party "graciously accepts" the King's reservations and will follow "the royal command with loyalty to the king and all members of the royal family".

Bloomberg observed that "the move by King Maha Vajiralongkorn's sister shocked a nation where top royals are officially treated with semi-divine status and protected by strict lèse-majesté laws that shield them from criticism".

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"The royal announcement made it clear that the party violated electoral law", said Mr Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution.

Thai Raksa Chart's Executive Chairman Chaturon Chaisaeng declined to comment on Sunday on the request to disband the party.

The junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is also contesting the race for prime minister as the candidate of a pro-military party.

Mr Prayut overthrew the democratic government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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

"Things are now more unpredictable", Titipol told Reuters.

Thaksin, himself ousted in a coup in 2006, lives in self-imposed exile after being convicted by a Thai court of corruption in absentia.

If the party is dissolved, it could give more seats to anti-Thaksin affiliated parties like the pro-junta, Phalang Pracharat and progressive Future Forward party, he said.

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