Thailand election 2019: Princess disqualified from prime minister bid

Frederick Owens
February 11, 2019

Princess Ubolratana Rajaka of Thailand attends "Thailand Hub of Entertainment", a film and entertainment industry event for investors, in Hong Kong.

"The EC today has announced the name of candidates excluding Princess Ubolratana proposed by the Thai Raksa Chart party", it said in a statement, explaining "all royal family members are above politics".

The commissioners voted to shoot down the nomination just three days after His Majesty the King barred Princess Ubolratana Mahidol, 68, from the race for the top government job on the grounds that royal family members can not get involved in politics.

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, 67, stunned Thailand when she was nominated by the Thai Raksa Chart party, aligned with ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his populist political movement.

The vote, set for March 24, will be Thailand's first democratic elections since ex-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is also Mr Thaksin's younger sister, was ousted five years ago.

She gave up her royal titles after marrying an American and she has starred in soap operas and an action movie.

In a statement, the commission said that its decision was based on a royal command issued on Friday, in which King Vajiralongkorn called his sister's bid "extremely inappropriate" and "against the nation's traditions, culture and customs".

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Also know as Ubol Ratana, the princess renounced her royal titles when she married a United States citizen in 1972, but was given them back after her divorce and return to Thailand in the late 1990s.

A petition has been filed with the election commission to disqualify the Thai Raksa Chart party entirely, and exclude them from the election. The commission is likely to follow the wishes of the monarch, who holds a semi-divine place in Thai society.

"The royal announcement made it clear that the party violated electoral law", said Mr Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution. In a statement, the party said it "will move forward into the election arena to solve problems for the country".

It said the monarchy was above politics and described his sister's candidacy as "highly inappropriate".

She broke a long-standing tradition in which the Thai monarchy is seen as above the political fray, and allied herself with Thaksin's political movement, long-criticized as anti-monarchist and anti-establishment. Prayuth was the Thai army chief in 2014 and led the coup that overthrew a government led by Thaksin's sister.

Thaksin, who has been in exile to avoid a jail sentence on a conflict of interest conviction, is believed by many to have played a role in establishing Ubolratana's candidacy.

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