A new political party in Thailand found itself on the wrong side of the King’s command after they proposed to front a princess for the position of Prime Minister ahead of their March elections. The party vowed to obey the king’s command, a move that improves the junta’s chances of favorable outcomes in the upcoming elections.
Princess Ubolratana’s bid for the premiership has been effectively blocked by her younger brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who rebuked her candidacy.
The political party, the Thai Raksa Chart, is affiliated with the influential Shinawatra political clan, and they had fronted the princess as candidate on the morning of Friday, February 8, 2019.
Their move was intended to disrupt the status quo as well as interfere with the influence of the junta, which has been ruling Thailand since they toppled the Yingluck Shinawatra administration after a coup in 2014.
King Maha thwarted his elder sister’s bid after issuing a scathing statement later on Friday, saying that bring senior members of the royal family into politics is “highly inappropriate”, as it goes against national culture and tradition.
Thai Raksa Chart political party were swift to respond, cancelling a campaign event that had been slated for Saturday, February 9, 2019. They issued a statement saying that the party would abide by “royal customs and tradition”.
“The Thai Raksa Chart party will comply with the royal command,” part of the statement reads.
Thailand is among the few constitutional monarchies in the world, where the hereditary kingship rules the state and elections are held for a premier to rule the government. However, they have most severe lèse-majesté laws worldwide, and the King’s word is final.
Celebrities and royalist Thais applauded the King’s intervention on social media following his statement, saying “Long live the King!”
Analysts believe that this series of events will favor the junta, enabling them to consolidate power and tilting the scale in favor of the junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha. Mr. Prayut has been fronted for the premiership by the Phalang Pracharat party, a group aligned to the reigning regime.
According to Thammasat university analyst Professor Anusorn Uno, the military how has “the upper hand”, and has been positioned to perform well in the soon-coming elections.
The election slated for March 24, 2019, is the first to be held since the successful coup in 2014.
Even prior to the Thai Raksa Chart’s reversal, it was general consensus that the palace’s statement stymied the princess chances of winning the premiership.
Political science professor at Chulalongkorn University stated that the palace’s disapproval of her bid had invalidated her candidacy.
Nobody from the royal family had ever run for a frontline political position since 1932.
Princess Ubolratana, 67, did not make a direct statement regarding the royal statement, but she thanked supporters through her popular Instagram account on Saturday. She only stated that she would like Thailand to “move forward”.
In his statement, the King did not direct his rebuke at the princess directly, instead focusing on the political party members that fronted her for candidacy.
The Thai Raksa Chart is affiliated with siblings Thaksin and Ms. Yingluck. The former was ousted by the military in 2006. The two currently live a self-imposed exile to avoid facing charges in their home country, which they say are politically motivated.
Analysts questioned Mr. Thaksin’s and the party’s move to invite the princess on board without clearing with the palace first.
Their bold move seems to have dramatically backfired on the siblings.
According to Anusorn, the king’s public intervention had also served to discredit Mr. Thaksin.
The princess married an American decades ago, and hence gave up her royal titles, but she moved back to Thailand after they got divorced.
The former king’s firstborn is unusually public, considering she’s royalty. She has had starring roles in movies and regularly dishes out advice to her almost 100,000 Instagram followers.