Thai princess, junta chief to run for prime minister

Thai princess, junta chief to run for prime minister

Thai princess, junta chief to run for prime minister

The selection of 67-year-old Princess Ubolratana Mahidol by the Thai Raksa Chart Party marks a shock realignment of Thai politics, as she is now affiliated with a political machine that had been dismissed by hardcore royalists as opposed in spirit to the monarchy.

But the opposition from Ubolratana's younger brother, a constitutional monarch, is likely to lead to the Election Commission disqualifying her.

"Involvement of a high-ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is an act that conflicts with the country's traditions, customs, and culture, and therefore considered extremely inappropriate", the king said in a statement on Friday.

But his order stressed that Thailand's constitution insists that the king and those around him stay above politics, and the principles of democratic government also put politics off-limits.

Ubolratana was born on April 5, 1951, five years into the reign of her father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

He is a former army chief who led the 2014 military coup that ousted the country's last elected government, led by Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thailand has among the world's toughest lese-majeste laws, which make it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir apparent or regent.

The king's statement poured cold water on the assumption that he had given the princess his blessing to enter the prime ministerial race.

"I agree to accept the invitation by Phalang Pracharat to nominate me to be appointed as premier", he said in an unusually conciliatory statement released to media.

But she is still regarded in the public mind as a member of the royal family, and her entry into politics sets an unprecedented quandary for her opponents in the March elections.

Election Authorities have a week to review which candidates are allowed to stand for prime minister after the March 24 vote. However, the nomination of a member of the royal family by the pro-Thaksin Thai Raksa Chart party could change that dynamic.

"There are unsafe days ahead", he said. In a sign of the extreme sensitivity, three Thailand-based legal and political analysts declined to comment on her candidacy.

1992: She founded the Ubolratana Foundation, which supports children orphaned by HIV-related illnesses.

On Friday morning, it was confirmation of Ubolratana's unprecedented candidacy that was the stunner, as the development grabbed headlines and saw footage of the 67-year-old, in recent times an actress, aired repeatedly on worldwide news channels.

"Thai Raksa Chart is a leading contender now".

"It'll be hard for parties to run against the princess", said Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Naresuan University's College of ASEAN Community Studies in the country's north. "Voters would find it hard to choose someone that's not part of her party, because Thai ideology puts the royals at the top".

Leader of Thai Raksa Chart party PreechaPholphongpanich, center, holds a picture of Princess Ubolratana at election commission of Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.

1972: She met and married American MIT classmate, Peter Jensen.

But the couple divorced and she moved back to Thailand where she is still considered part of the royal family.

In an Instagram post after her nomination was announced, she pointed out that she lives "as a commoner" and accepted the nomination to show her "rights and freedoms without any privileges above fellow Thai citizens under the constitution".

The Election Commission is required to endorse all candidates by next Friday.

"Thank you for all the love and encouragement", the princess, who gave up her royal titles to marry a foreigner, said in a typically colourful Instagram post on Friday afternoon.

Ubolratana is known for her "To Be Number One" anti-drugs program as well as starring in several soap operas and movies.

It remains possible Prayut's backers could mount a legal challenge to Ubolratana's candidacy by claiming she is violating laws created to keep the monarchy out of politics.

"Thai politics" faultline has been drawn on the monarchy.

Whether the Princess could win Thailand's general election next month is not clear yet.

Tragedy struck in 2004 when her autistic 21-year-old son Bhumi died in the Indian Ocean tsunami.

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