Army-aligned party buoyed amid Thai political turmoil

Lester Mason
February 11, 2019

Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's bid to become the next prime minister of Thailand has been blocked by her brother, the king.

The vote, set for March 24, will be Thailand's first democratic elections since ex-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is also Mr Thaksin's younger sister, was ousted five years ago.

Her sudden decision to stand for the Thai Raksa Chart Party collapsed when King Maha Vajiralongkorn banned her from running.

Still, Paiboon Nititawan, the pro-military People Reform Party leader, has called on the Election Commission to meet Monday to consider dissolving the Thai Raksa Party for nominating the princess despite withdrawing her nomination.

The current prime minister and former army chief led a 2014 coup that ousted a civilian government to end a prolonged period of sometimes deadly unrest. "This isn't a play!" said Buddhipongse Punnakanta, a party member who recently left his position as spokesman for junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

The nomination of the king's elder sister, who has starred in soap operas and an action movie and gave up her royal titles after marrying an American, was a shocking move by forces loyal to Thaksin, who face an uphill battle in the election.

On Friday, King Vajiralongkorn denounced his sister Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's unprecedented bid for political power as inappropriate. It is unlikely its members would disregard the wishes of the king, who while a constitutional monarch, is considered semi-divine in Thai society.

A day after the party's swift response saying it "complies with the royal command" to retract the princess' candidacy, Thai Raksa Chart issued a statement Sunday saying their party policies remain unchanged.

"The royal announcement made it clear that the party violated electoral law", Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, told Reuters.

Ultra-royalists are now demanding that Thai Raksa Chart be dissolved. The party said it would accept the king's message and "move forward into the election arena to solve problems for the country".

The candidacy would have broken with the tradition of the Thai royal family publicly staying out of politics.

Thaksin or his allies have won every election dating back to 2001, only to be unseated by the courts or the military.

"Things are now more unpredictable", Titipol told Reuters.

"I would like to say once again that I want to see Thailand moving forward, being admirable and acceptable by global countries, want to see all Thais have rights, a chance, good living, happiness to all", she said, ending her post with an "#ILoveYou" hashtag.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

Discuss This Article