Thai king condemns princess's tilt at prime minister as unconstitutional

09 February, 2019, 09:52 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Thailand election: Thai princess to stand as PM candidate

With her unprecedented candidacy, Ubolratana is set to face off against the leader of the ruling military government, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who announced his candidacy on Friday.

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932. The princess lived in the USA for years, but after the couple divorced in 1998, she then moved to Thailand, where she is still referred to as a princess and a member of the royal family. Though Ubolratana does not have any royal titles and is not covered under lese majeste laws as of now - she relinquished her royal status back in 1972 - it is hard to imagine that her status would not affect how polls would be conducted.

They divorced in 1998 and she continued to reside in the United States with her three children until they returned to Thailand in 2001.

The simmering conflict between the Bangkok-centered elites and the more rural-based populists has resulted in street protests, military coups, and violent clashes for nearly 15 years.

"Previous assumptions and scenarios have to be reconsidered", Thitinan said. "If this turns out well, it will be a process of reconciliation and unity".

"Assuming that this is proceeding with the blessing of the king, this suggests that the crown is trying to chart its own course through Thailand's turbulent political waters, placing some distance between itself and the military", Hicken said.

The party is closely allied to Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, both former prime ministers ousted in military coups in 2006 and 2014 respectively, the latter led by Prayut.

Thaksin and his party have been accused by their enemies of being opposed to the monarchy, which they have always rejected.

The move from the Thai Raksa Chart party is broadly speculated to have been engineered by former PM Thaksin in the fugitive's ongoing interference, in exile, with Thai politics.

But Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters at the Election Commission he was not anxious about challenges. Ubolratana falls into a gray area, since she no longer has her highest titles but is still regarded as a princess.

"I would like to say once again that I want to see Thailand moving forward, being admirable and acceptable by global countries, want to see all Thais have rights, a chance, good living, happiness to all", she said, concluding with "#ILoveYou".

A small pro-military party, the People's Reform Party, asked the Election Commission to consider whether the princess's candidacy violated laws forbidding parties from invoking the monarchy in campaigns.

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The Election Commission declined to comment when contacted by Reuters late on Friday night, with an official saying its members will hold a meeting on Monday.

In the announcement, he said violent political conflict and disunity had plagued the country, stalled national development and affected people's lives, democracy-based law enforcement and the exercise of administrative, legislative and judicial power for over a decade before the NCPO took over the national administration.

There was no mention of the princess' nomination in Prayuth's statement.

Princess Ubolratana, the oldest daughter of King Bhumibol, was born in Lausanne in 1951.

1975: She received a master's degree in public health at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Princess Ubolratana now does not have the same official standing in Thailand as other members of the royal family.

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.

She's starred in several soap operas and movies, she's known for her charity work with young Thais, and is a prominent figure on social media. Her son, Khun Poom, died when the tsunami hit Phang nga province on December 26, 2004.

The princess, Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, has officially shed her royal titles.

Soon after Friday's announcement, her catchphrase #SongPhraSlender (Long Live Slender) was number one on Twitter in Thailand.

Despite his grim record, Prayut had been widely expected to win next month's election, if only due to the lack of a credible challenger.

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