Thai Raksa Chart Party 'accepts King's command with full loyalty'

Thai princess to run for PM -- against junta chief

Thai princess to run for PM -- against junta chief

Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich, holds up application of candidate for Prime Minister, Thailand's Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, at the election commission office in Bangkok, Thailand February 8, 2019.

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.

The elections will be the first since a military coup in 2014, when then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of ex-PM Thaksin, was ousted from office.

Her path to Friday's stunning developments diverged considerably from that taken by her brother and sisters, whose lives were mostly dictated by the demands of palace protocol, even though her brother in his younger days as heir apparent led the kind of lifestyle that caused his mother, Queen Sirikit, to describe him as a "Don Juan".

Thailand has not had a royal as premier since becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

But his order stressed that Thailand's constitution insists that the king and those around him stay above politics, and the principles of democratic government also put politics off-limits.

The unprecedented entry into politics of a member of the revered royal family had threatened to transform Thai politics, which has been divided by a bitter class conflict for 18 years, but has now turned the royal family on each other.

"We are in new territory", said Kevin Hewison, an emeritus professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has written about Thai politics for decades.

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. She lived in the United States for more than 26 years before they divorced in 1998.

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

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.

The simmering conflict between the Bangkok-centered elites and the more rural-based populists has resulted in street protests, military coups, and violent clashes for nearly 15 years. However, the death in 2016 of HM King BhumibolAdulyadej added a major element of uncertainty, as he had served as a stabilizing force since taking the throne in 1946. "If this turns out well, it will be a process of reconciliation and unity".

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Years of political infighting have eroded Thailand's competitiveness as a manufacturing base in South-east Asia, and economic growth is set to slow this year as the US-China trade war hits global demand.

She is the sister of Thailand's current King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and the oldest daughter of former King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

"Just a theory: Thaksin creates Thai Raksa Chart to mitigate the risk of Puea Thai being dissolved".

The Thai Raksa Chart party, which nominated Ubolratana canceled a campaign event planned for Saturday but party leaders would not comment on the king's opposition.

The princess is the older sister of Thailand's King, Maha Vajiralongkorn. Ubolratana falls into a gray area, since she no longer has her highest titles but is still regarded as a princess.

"I wish all Thais have rights and opportunities, are well off and happy", Ubolratana wrote in her Saturday morning post.

The Thai Election Commission has until next Friday, Feb. 15, to accept or reject the princess's candidacy for the March 24 elections.

Prayuth also accepted on Friday the nomination as a candidate for prime minister from his military-backed party.

"I don´t think it´s the victory for the people; I think this is part of the adaptation of the ruling elite in terms of changing the landscape of politics".

Ubolratana was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, while her father was attending college there.

Ubolratana, a mathematics and biochemistry graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a reputation for being more accessible to commoners than the rest of the royal family.

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