Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Thai party to comply with royal order against princess PM candidacy: statement

Thai princess to run for PM -- against junta chief Princess Ubolratana: The 'outspoken' Thai royal with a turbulent history of breaking with tradition
Andrew Cummings | 11 February, 2019, 02:49

King Vajiralongkorn, 66, issued his message late on Friday, saying his elder sister's candidacy was "inappropriate" and it was against the spirit of the constitution for royalty to be involved in politics.

The statement of fealty comes as the country ponders a Friday whirlwind in which Princess Ubolratana Mahidol broke with tradition proscribing the monarchy's involvement with politics to become a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party, only to have her brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, invalidate her action with a late night order.

Thailand's King Vajiralongkorn has denounced as "inappropriate" his sister's unprecedented bid to run for prime minister in March's election.

Current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup that ousted Thailand's last elected government, on Friday accepted his selection as candidate to lead the next government by the Palang Pracharat Party, widely considered a proxy for the military.

The conflict between the Bangkok-centered, royalist elites and Thaksin and his more rural-based supporters has resulted in street protests, military coups, and violent clashes over nearly 15 years.

The princess's nominating party is an offshoot of the larger pro-Thaksin party that was ousted from power in the 2014 coup, and is seen as a back-up party in case the main party is disqualified.

Despite being a a constitutional monarchy since 1932, Thailand's royal family has wielded great influence and commanded the devotion of millions.

The party, Thai Raksa Chart, cancelled a campaign event on Saturday and said it would comply "with the royal command". On her personal Instagram account, the 67-year-old Princess said she abandons her royal status and lives as a common citizen.

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The post did not explicitly state that she was withdrawing her candidacy, and neither did the Thai Raksa Chart party's statement.

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. After her divorce she returned to Thailand in 2001 and once again started participating in royal life.

His Majesty made clear in the statement that although the princess had resigned from the royal family by law, she is still a royal family member by tradition. "It is not easy for me to make my decision.it is a crucial moment for the country", he said.

She maintained that she is contesting the election as a commoner with the rights and freedom given by the constitution and that she had relinquished herself of royal titles.

After her marriage and 1973 graduation from MIT, she moved with her family to California and used the name Julie Jensen, earning a master's degree in public health at the University of California, Los Angeles. However, she thanked her followers on Instagram early Saturday and said she wanted Thailand to "move forward". She is referred to as "Tunkramom Ying" meaning "Daughter to the Queen Regent". She has three children, one of whom died in the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people in southern Asia.

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

But Ubolratana's shock entrance into politics, aligned with the junta's nemesis - the Shinawatra family - undercuts those claims.

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