Sun, Feb 10, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Thai princess’ PM bid scuttled as party obeys king

‘UPPER HAND’:One professor said that the past two days’ events would help the junta that has ruled Thailand since 2014 consolidate power in next month’s election

AFP, BANGKOK

Thai Princess Ubolratana Mahidol attends a news conference at the Carlton Hotel during the 61st Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 15, 2008.

Photo: AFP

A new Thai political party yesterday vowed to obey a command from the king blocking the candidacy of his eldest sister for prime minister in a dramatic reversal that appeared to boost the junta’s chances ahead of next month’s elections.

The announcement effectively blocks Princess Ubolratana Mahidol’s unprecedented bid for the prime ministry and comes after an extraordinary rebuke of the candidacy by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

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

The move looked to rattle the “status quo” and threaten the ambitions of the junta that has ruled Thailand since it toppled the administration of then-Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a 2014 coup.

However, the king torpedoed the bid in a sharply worded statement later in the day that said bringing senior royal family members into politics is against tradition and national culture, and is “highly inappropriate.”

Thai Raksa Chart responded swiftly, canceling a campaign event scheduled for yesterday and issuing a statement saying it would respect “tradition and royal customs.”

“Thai Raksa Chart party complies with the royal command,” it said.

Thailand has some of the most severe lese majeste laws in the world and the king’s word is considered final.

Royalist Thais and celebrities praised the intervention on social media after the order, writing: “Long live the king.”

Analysts believe the events that unfolded over the past two days would help the junta consolidate power and tilt the odds in favor of coup leader and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.

Prayut is standing as prime minister for the Phalang Pracharat party, a group aligned with the regime.

The military has “gained the upper hand,” said Anusorn Unno, a professor at Thammasat University, adding that it is poised to perform well in the upcoming vote.

The election on March 24 is the first since the 2014 coup.

Even before Thai Raksa Chart’s reversal, many said that the palace statement had scuttled the princess’ chances.

“The palace disapproval invalidates her candidacy,” said Puangthong Pawakapan a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and has not had a royal run for frontline office since 1932.

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

The king did not criticize the princess directly and seemed to focus blame on political party members who brought her on board.

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