Princess for PM: Why populists' royal election bid shook Thailand

Thai Election Panel Disqualifies Princess as PM Candidate

Thai Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya poses during a news conference 2008. Credit Reuters

The political career of Thailand's Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi lasted only three days, but in that time her declaration that she would be a candidate for prime minister in a March election shook up the kingdom.

The political hopes of the princess were dashed nearly immediately when her younger brother, the king, issued a terse statement saying his sister's candidacy was "highly inappropriate" and went against tradition and national culture.

Thailand will hold elections on March 24, the first since a 2014 military coup.

The commission released the official list of parties' candidates for prime minister without the name of Princess Ubolratana, 67, the older sister of the king.

The nomination of the king's elder sister, who has starred in soap operas and an action movie and gave up her royal titles after marrying an American, was a shocking move by forces loyal to Thaksin, who face an uphill battle in the election.

The commission's decision came after her brother issued an order describing Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's political plans as inappropriate and unconstitutional.

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

"I think the party leader and board should take a responsibility by resigning", said Srisuwan Janya of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, a royalist activist group, who submitted a petition to election authorities Monday calling for the party's censure.

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".

By longstanding tradition, the royal family have kept themselves above politics as a symbol of Thai culture.

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

"The provisions also cover the queen, heir-apparent and royal family members close to the king", stressed the royal statement, adding that they "may not hold any political position, as it is against the intention of the constitutions and constitutional monarchy tradition".

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".

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

Thaksin, who has been in exile to avoid a jail sentence on a conflict of interest conviction, is believed by many to have played a role in establishing Ubolratana's candidacy.

He responded to the events on Twitter late yesterday telling supporters to "keep moving forward" and "learn from past experiences but live for today and the future".

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