Published: Sun, February 10, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Thai King’s Sister Running for PM in March Polls

Thai King’s Sister Running for PM in March Polls

The Thai Raksa Chart party, which nominated Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister, said it "graciously accepts" the king's statement and would abide by election regulations and royal tradition.

The royal order from Vajiralongkorn, read on national television late Friday night, caught by surprise newspapers that had already started their press runs with stories focusing on ramifications of Ubolratana's candidacy.

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi upended military-ruled Thailand's politics by becoming the prime ministerial candidate for a party loyal to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra in elections set for March 24.

Thai Raksa Chart announced the princess as their candidate Friday morning in a move that looked to rattle the status quo and threaten the ambitions of the junta that has ruled Thailand since it toppled the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra in a 2014 coup.

Princess Ubolratana stepped down from being a royal family member in 1972.

Friday was the last day for political parties to submit their lists of prime minister candidates to the Election Commission. The political party has selected the princess as its nominee to serve as the next prime minister.

Observers immediately suggested the princess's candidacy was likely to unify the two-decade turmoil between the wealthy Shinawatras - triumphant in all elections since 2001 - and royalist urban elites who have backed the 2006 and 2014 coups against them.

Ubolratana, who on Friday wrote on Instagram that she was a "commoner" who does not enjoy royal privilege, on Saturday uploaded another post that appeared to ignore her brother's rebuke.

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

A Thai princess will run for prime minister in March elections, in an unprecedented entry by a royal into frontline politics which pits her against the chief of the ruling junta, throwing into disarray his bid to stay in power.

Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich, holds up application of candidate for prime minister, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, at the election commission office in Bangkok on February 8.

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A telecom tycoon who entered politics in the 1990s, Thaksin won the support of millions of rural Thais with expanded welfare programs, but opponents accused him of graft and challenging the power of the monarchy.

Rivalry between the Bangkok-centred, royalist elites and Thaksin and his rural-based supporters has brought street protests, military coups, and violent clashes over nearly 15 years.

"I feel great. And I think she's a suitable choice", Thai homemaker Nirinsiri Chanboriboon, 41, told AFP after the announcement of her candidacy earlier Friday.

1952: Ubolratana's brother, the future King Maha Vajiralongkorn, is born.

"Just a theory: Thaksin creates Thai Raksa Chart to mitigate the risk of Puea Thai being dissolved. I believe there will be no legal problems in terms of her qualification, but we have to wait for the Election Commission to endorse her candidacy", Mr Preechapol said.

Ubolratana, 67, completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles, respectively.

"The princess has worked to promote Thailand's tourism industry for up to 10 years". Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha later accepted the nomination.

An avid social media user, she recently posted videos eating street food and another complaining about pollution in Bangkok.

The siblings are the children of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 after a record breaking 70 years on the throne.

"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", she said, concluding with "#ILoveYou". She is referred to as "Tunkramom Ying", which means "Daughter to the Queen Regent", and is treated by officials as a member of the royal family.

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