Thai princess’ bid to be PM scut­tled

Party agrees to com­ply with com­mand from the king, her brother; blocks Princess Ubol­ratana’s can­di­dacy

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - WORLD - —AFP

Bangkok: Thai Princess Ubol­ratana’s un­prece­dented at­tempt to be­come the coun­try’s next prime min­is­ter was abruptly nixed Satur­day af­ter her party agreed to com­ply with a com­mand from the king op­pos­ing the plan.

The party’s an­nounce­ment ef­fec­tively block­ing Ubol­ratana’s can­di­dacy came af­ter an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­buke by her brother King Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn, and re­moves a hur­dle for the rul­ing junta to hold onto power af­ter the March 24 vote -- the first since a 2014 coup.

The Thai Raksa Chart party, af­fil­i­ated with the pow­er­ful Shi­nawa­tra po­lit­i­cal clan, had an­nounced the princess as their can­di­date Fri­day morn­ing. The move rat­tled the sta­tus quo and threat­ened the am­bi­tions of the gen­er­als who have con­trolled Thai­land since they top­pled the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra al­most five years ago.

But the Thai king tor­pe­doed his sis­ter’s bid in a sharply worded state­ment the same day that said bring­ing se­nior royal fam­ily mem­bers into pol­i­tics was against tra­di­tion and “highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Thai Raksa Chart re­sponded swiftly, can­celling a cam­paign event Satur­day and is­su­ing a state­ment say­ing it “com­plies with the royal com­mand”.

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

Roy­al­ist Thais and celebri­ties praised the in­ter­ven­tion on so­cial me­dia af­ter the or­der, writ­ing “long live the king”. Oth­ers ex­pressed un­hap­pi­ness with groups such as Thai Raksa Chart linked to Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

An ac­tivist who called him­self Champ 1984 said he was

“dis­ap­pointed” with the idea of a pro-democ­racy party en­list­ing a royal fam­ily mem­ber and would now vote for a dif­fer­ent party.

‘Very firm’

An­a­lysts say the events of the past day will help the mil­i­tary to con­sol­i­date power and tilt the odds in favour of junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Prayut is stand­ing as premier for the Pha­lang Pracharat party, a group aligned with the regime. The mil­i­tary has “gained the up­per hand”, said pro­fes­sor Anu­sorn Unno from Tham­masat Univer­sity, adding that it is poised to per­form well in the vote. Even

be­fore Thai Raksa Chart’s re­ver­sal, many warned the palace state­ment had ended the princess’ chances.

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

An Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of­fi­cial said it is re­view­ing all can­di­date ap­pli­ca­tions and will fin­ish the process this week, though few ex­pect it to di­vert from the royal or­der.

His­to­rian Chris Baker said that while he could not pre­dict what would hap­pen next, the lan­guage in the palace state­ment was strong and “very firm”.

—REUTERS/AFP

Ap­pli­ca­tion form prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date, Thai­land’s Princess Ubol­ratana Ra­jakanya Siri­vad­hana Bar­navadi (inset), seen at the elec­tion com­mis­sion of­fice in Bangkok

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