Sunday, 22 September, 2019

Historic candidacy of princess upends tradition in Thailand

Thailand election: Thai princess to stand as PM candidate Princess Ubolratana to contest Thailand elections as PM candidate
Patty Aguilar | 08 February, 2019, 09:55

Prayut has headed the junta for almost five years, scripting a new constitution in a bid to recast the entire political system to ensure the army has a foothold on power after elections on March 24.

"The Thai Raksa Chart Party is highly honoured by Princess Ubolratana's bid for the party's prime ministerial nomination", the party said in a statement.

Not only now running as an opponent to the NCPO Chief, who is running as a PM candidate for Palang Pracharat, but also running with a party historically aligned with a fugitive former prime minister.

"The party has nominated the princess as its sole candidate", Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters after registering his party's candidate at the Election Commission.

Ubolratana relinquished her royal titles in 1972 when she married an American, a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Peter Jensen.

Her selection to lead the government after the March 24 general election also pits her against the preferred candidate of the military, which is considered one of Thailand's most royalist institutions.

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932 but the royal family has wielded great influence and commanded the devotion of millions.

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In general, like most of the royal family, she publicly kept herself aloof from Thailand's recent political turmoil. It was not immediately clear if Ubolratana would be covered by the kingdom's hardline royal defamation law - which carries up to 15 years in jail per charge - or how that could impact debate and criticism in the run up to elections.

Political analysts see the shocking move as a further political complication in the South-East Asian country ahead of its first election since the 2014 coup and return to democracy.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha later accepted the nomination.

The Election Commission is required to endorse all candidates by next Friday. "I want to reassure that I do not intend to hang on to power". However, the death in 2016 of King Bhumibol Adulyadej added a major element of uncertainty, as he had served as a stabilizing force since taking the throne in 1946.

She returned permanently to Thailand in 2001, performing royal duties but never regaining her full royal titles.

Ubolratana is known for her "To Be Number One" anti-drugs program as well as starring in several soap operas and movies.

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