Thai party that nominated princess for PM faces ban for violating law

Sergio Conner
February 11, 2019

Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich, holds up application of candidate for Prime Minister, Thailand's Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, at the election commission office in Bangkok, Thailand February 8, 2019.

Bloomberg observed that "the move by King Maha Vajiralongkorn's sister shocked a nation where top royals are officially treated with semi-divine status and protected by strict lèse-majesté laws that shield them from criticism". Ubolratana was nominated by the party in an unprecedented move, marking the first time in the 86-year history of Thailand's constitutional monarchy that a royal family member has sought the prime minister seat.

The candidacy would have broken with the tradition of the Thai royal family publicly staying out of politics.

The Election Commission has until Friday to rule on the princess's candidacy.

After her original announcement, the king had issued a statement from the palace which declared the royals "exist in a status above politics".

"Involvement of a high ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is an act that conflicts with the country's traditions, customs, and culture, and therefore is considered extremely inappropriate".

On Sunday, an activist said he would file a petition to disqualify the Thai Raksa Chart party, which nominated the princess.

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Her sudden decision to stand for the Thai Raksa Chart Party collapsed when King Maha Vajiralongkorn banned her from running.

The much-anticipated election is set for March 24 and will be the first since a 2014 coup.

Thai Raksa Chart's executive chairman Chaturon Chaisaeng declined to comment on the request to disband it.

Coalition sources say they believed they had the king's acquiescence for his sister to run in the election.

Bangkok Post reported that the opposition was made on the grounds that the princess "is still a royal family member who is not allowed to take political positions" despite having legally relinquished her royal titles, following her marriage to Peter Jensen, a citizen of the United States, who she had met whilst studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She said she would work with all sincerity and determination for the prosperity of all Thais.

The current prime minister and former army chief led a 2014 coup that ousted a civilian government to end a prolonged period of sometimes deadly unrest.

She said: "I would like to say once again that I want to see Thailand moving forward, being admirable and acceptable by worldwide countries, want to see all Thais have rights, a chance, good living, happiness to all".

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