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Thai princess bid for PM scuttled as party obeys royal command

AFP

BANGKOK

Thai Princess Ubolratana’s unprecedented attempt to become the country’s next prime minister was abruptly nixed Saturday after her party agreed to comply with a command from the King opposing the plan.

The party’s announcement effectively blocking Ubolratana’s candidacy came after an extraordinary rebuke by her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and removes a hurdle for the ruling junta to hold onto power after the March 24 vote — the first since a 2014 coup.

The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, had announced the princess as their candidate Friday morning.

The move rattled the status quo and threatened the ambitions of the generals who have controlled Thailand since they toppled the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra almost five years ago.

But the Thai king torpedoed his sister’s bid in a sharply worded statement the same day that said bringing senior royal family members into politics was against tradition and “highly inappropriate”.

Thai Raksa Chart responded swiftly, cancelling a campaign event Saturday and issuing a statement saying it “complies with the royal command”.

Thailand has some of the most severe lese majeste laws in the world and the king’s word is seldom challenged.

Royalist Thais and celebrities praised the intervention on social media after the order, writing “long live the king”.

Others expressed unhappiness with groups such as Thai Raksa Chart linked to Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

An activist who called himself Champ 1984 said he was “disappointed” with the idea of a pro-democracy party enlisting a royal family member and would now vote for a different party.

Analysts say the events of the past day will help the military to consolidate power and tilt the odds in favour of
junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Prayut is standing as premier for the Phalang Pracharat party, a group aligned with the regime.

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