Thai political party withdraws nomination of princess for prime minister

Monday, February 11, 2019

On Saturday, Thailand's Thai Raksa Chart Party withdrew from using Princess Ubolratana Mahidol as their candidate for prime minister in response to a statement from her younger brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Shortly after she formally filed for candidacy, the palace issued a statement to the effect the king considered it inappropriate for Thai royals to run for elected office. The constitutionality of the Princess's candidacy had also been challenged by the opposing military political party.

Princess Ubolratana in 2009.
Image: Sodacan.

The palace issued the following statement from the king: "Even though she relinquished her title according to royal laws [...] she still retains her status and position as a member of the Chakri dynasty [...] 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."

"Thai Raksa Chart party complies with the royal command," the party informed the press. The election is scheduled for March 24.

This past Friday, the princess, 67, announced her candidacy for the prime ministry under the Thai Raksa Chart Party, making her the first Thai royal to seek elected office.

The Thai Raksa Chart party was founded by supporters of the Shinawatra family. A military coup removed then-prime-minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, and another his sister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014, which placed incumbent Prayuth Chan-o-cha in office. The Thai Raksa Chart Party did not immediately announce whom they would support to run against Chan-o-cha.

Thai law forbids both speaking ill of the royal family and using the monarchy for a political campaign. Officially, Princess Ubolratana no longer holds a royal title, having lost it in 1972 upon her marriage to a U.S. national whom she met while studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although she has since divorced and returned to Thailand, her title was not restored.

In support of her candidacy, Princess Ubolratana pointed out she had "relinquished my royal titles and lived as a commoner[.]" Sources report she is generally treated as royalty by the Thai populace. Following the party's announcement, she used Instagram to thank supporters.

The country's election commission is scheduled to discuss the events of this past weekend on Monday. They are required to rule by this coming Friday on the acceptability of all candidates.

The Thai monarchy was limited by a constitution in 1932.

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