Thai king moves to block sister's 'inappropriate' candidacy for PM

Thai princess to run for PM -- against junta chief

Friday was the last day for political parties to submit their lists of prime minister candidates to the Election Commission.

It started at around 9.15 am, when allies of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra - a tycoon who has lived in exile for more than a decade after repeated clashes with royalists - said former princess Ubolratana Rajakanya had agreed to stand as prime minister.

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932 but the royal family has wielded great influence and commands the devotion of millions.

Her shock entrance into frontline Thai politics was a first by a member of the powerful royal family and promised to reshape the political landscape of the country.

The nomination of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, the elder sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, promised to upend Thailand's already turbulent politics because it breaks the long-standing tradition of Thai royalty staying out of politics.

The statement was issued by the palace and later read on air by a television announcer.

Because Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, the king and his immediate circle are not supposed to involve themselves directly in politics.

The Princess has had links with Thaksin in the past and, although still the sister of the current King of Thailand, will not be protected by any of the lese majeste rules that govern members of the Thai Royal Family.

Noted scholar Kaewsan Athibodhi on Friday posted an article on Thai Post Online saying that it is necessary for all involved to clarify the princess' current status within the royal institution.

Prayuth had been considered the front-runner for the March election because changes in the constitution and election rules implemented by his government make it hard for political parties without military backing to capture the prime minister's post.

But her foray into politics looked to be short-lived after the public opposition from King Vajiralongkorn, which is likely to lead to the Election Commission disqualifying her or the princess dropping out of the race.

Princess Ubolratana, the oldest daughter of King Bhumibol, was born in Lausanne in 1951. The young king was not yet the hyperactive advocate of development he later became, incessantly touring the remote corners of his kingdom, so she likely spent more time in his company than her younger siblings.




One of her leading opponents will be Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the military junta. They settled in the United States where she and her husband, Peter Jensen, had three children.

"Royalists who had been appalled by the prospect of a political deal with Thaksin are now rejoicing, while Thais who believed the deal heralded an end to political conflict are now heartbroken", he said in a statement.

Still, she has been working along with other Royal Family members since her return to Thailand and has been working with many charities and conducting "Royal" duties without carrying the title of HRH. Violent street protests and two military coups have marked the years since.

Thaksin's nephew, Rupop Shinawatra, is third on Thai Raksa Chart's party list.

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

Years of political infighting have eroded Thailand's competitiveness as a manufacturing base in South-east Asia, and economic growth is set to slow this year as the US-China trade war hits global demand.

"I am not aiming to extending my power but I am doing this for the benefit for the country and the people", he said.

The princess engages actively in social media and has also starred in several Thai movies.

Thaksin's well-funded political machine returned to power twice since and is seen as the key element in arranging for Ubolratana's selection because she cast her lot with a Thaksin-affiliated party.

Her son was killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

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 registration papers that shook up Thailand's upcoming election list her legal residence as "Boromphiman Throne Hall" and "inside the Grand Palace", according to the Associated Press.

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