Thailand's king condemns bid by sister to become PM

Thailand's king condemns bid by sister to become PM

Thailand's king condemns bid by sister to become PM

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

Ubolratana's candidacy would have pitted her against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup against a pro-Thaksin government.

The Thai Raksa Chart party, which is aligned with ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, announced on Friday that it would nominate the princess as its candidate for prime minister in elections on March 24, an unprecedented move in a country where the revered monarchy has traditionally been seen as above politics.

Her candidacy instantly threatened to upend the first national ballot since a military coup in 2014 that ousted a government loyal to Thaksin, the figure at the centre of years of political turbulence and rival street protests that have riven Thai society.

The 67-year-old princess did not address the royal rebuke head-on when she thanked supporters on Saturday on her widely followed Instagram account, saying vaguely that she wanted Thailand to "move forward".

Because Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, the king and his immediate circle are not supposed to involve themselves directly in politics. She had to give up her highest royal titles more than 40 years ago when she married an American man and moved to the United States.

While the king sits above politics, his comments are likely to weigh heavily on the minds of the country's election commission which must rule on whether Ubolratana can enter politics.

Analysts said she is not technically covered by the kingdom's royal defamation law - which carries heavy jail sentences - but given the culture of deference to royalty, she is unlikely to face the scrutiny given to most politicians.

Many Thais had assumed that the princess would not have sought the nomination without her brother's blessing and were surprised that he would have supported her association with a party that is considered unsympathetic to the monarchy.

That she was nominated by a political party with strong ties to the former disgraced and fugitive PM, Thaksin Shinawatra, also places an additionally complex spin on the Princess' decision to accept the nomination.

His well-funded political machine returned his allies to power twice, and his maneuvering was seen as the key element in arranging for Ubolratana's selection by a Thaksin-affiliated party.

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A Thai political party on Friday named a princess as its nominee to be the next prime minister, upending tradition that the royal palace plays no public role in politics and upsetting all predictions about what may happen in next month's election.

The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, had announced the princess as their candidate Friday morning.

"This is a profound development that will shape the contours and dynamics of Thai politics before and after the election".

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.

But her foray into politics - breaking with royal tradition - looked to be short-lived after her younger brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, quickly signaled he opposed it, which is likely to lead to her disqualification.

Thai Raksa Chart Party chief Preechapol brushed aside questions about Thaksin.

The princess's candidacy landed like a bombshell when her name was submitted to the Election Commission on Friday. She studied mathematics and biochemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and earned a master's degree in public health from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Could Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya be Thailand's next leader?

The siblings are the children of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 after a record breaking 70 years on the throne. She did say on social media, "I have relinquished my royal titles and lived as a commoner".

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.

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