Thai Princess Ubolratana officially nominated as PM candidate

Thai Princess Ubolratana officially nominated as PM candidate

She was registered Friday as a prime ministerial candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party, which is associated with the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, abhorred by conservative royalists as a corrupt rival for power. "If this does not turn out well, it will pose alarming risk and even greater risk for Thailand's political future".

Ubolratana's move briefly threw his fortunes into disarray but the palace action made it clear it does not endorse her run. What actually had happened behind the scenes is unlikely to become public, because the Thai royal family's private affairs are nearly never leaked.

After leaving the royal family to follow her heart nearly 50 years ago, the 67-year-old sister of current monarch King Maha Vajiralongkorn is again upending protocol by entering politics.

The statement cited a passage of the constitution that says the monarchy should maintain political neutrality.

In an Instagram post today, the princess did not directly mention her brother or her political hopes, but thanked supporters for their "love and kindness toward each other over the past day" and expressed gratitude for their support for her.

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, 67, is the sister of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and has announced she will stand as prime minister candidate in the upcoming election.

"I have thoroughly considered the party's policies and I deem that they can further the programmes the [military regime] has I accept the Phalang Pracharat Party's nomination as a prime minister candidate", Prayut said in a statement. He led the 2014 military coup that ousted Thailand's last elected government, which had been backed by Thaksin.

One of her leading opponents will be Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the military junta, who also announced his candidacy on Friday. But she would not be covered by Thailand's strict lese majeste law against insulting the monarchy.

She has adopted a more approachable persona than other members of the Thai royal family, and has appeared in pop concerts, singing Christmas carols and acting in movies.

While the king sits above politics, his comments are likely to weigh heavily on the minds of the country's election commission which must rule on whether Ubolratana can enter politics. She said she would work with all sincerity and determination for the prosperity of all Thais.

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Parliament has had members who were distant relatives of the monarch. Her presence at the head of Thai Raksa Chart Thai presents Prayuth with an enormous problem of running against the royal family in a country where arguably the world's stiffest lèse-majesté laws make any criticism of the monarchy virtually impossible without daring long prison sentences.

She was virtually disowned by her father in 1972 when she married American Peter Jensen, who was a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hippie and anti-war culture was near its height in the United States, and the already independent-minded Ubolratana may have absorbed her fair share of it. She also frequently promotes Thai tourism and movies at worldwide forums.

But the couple divorced and she moved back to Thailand where she is still considered part of the royal family.

Thai politics for more than a decade has been shaken by violent street protests, coups and comebacks, but those are familiar events in Thai history. But the election of the telecommunications tycoon Thaksin in 2001 was transformative for Thailand.

The election is shaping up as a battle between Thaksin's populists and their allies and the royalist-military establishment.

The kingdom's political schism is broadly between the Shinawatra-aligned rural poor and the Bangkok-based elite, and has resulted in rounds of deadly street protests and two coups since 2006. His sister fled in 2017, also to avoid jail in a case she said was politically motivated.

Born in 1951, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi is the oldest child of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In terms of the outcome, while Prayut was seen as being the likely victor by far in upcoming polls, the most likely scenario now is a unity, royal-led government with Ubolratana at the helm, with Thaksin's influence at play and some role for Prayut-linked forces as well.

The surprise entry of his sister Ubolratana into politics - assumed to be with the king's approval - raises questions about whether the long-lasting partnership of the palace with the army is in jeopardy.

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