The eldest sister of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has joined the race to be the country’s next Prime Minister. Princess Ubolratana Mahidol, 67, will stand for a party allied to ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra, according to registration papers. By tradition the Thai royal family stays out of politics, so this is an exceptional move. Thailand’s election is planned to take place on 24 March. The nomination of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, promised to upend Thailand’s already blustery politics because it breaks the long-lasting tradition of the royalty staying out of politics. The princess, who surrendered her royal title in the 1970s, has registered for the Thai Raksa Chart party.
Thai Raksa Chart is an off-shoot of the main pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai Party that was exiled from power in 2014 in a coup led by then-army chief Prayuth. Thaksin and his party have at times been blamed by enemies of being opposed to the monarchy. Thaksin and his party have always disallowed that. “The party has nominated the princess as its individual candidate,” Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters after registering his party’s candidate at the Election Commission. “She is knowledgeable and is very suitable. I believe there will be no legal problems in terms of her qualification, but we have to wait for the Election Commission to endorse her candidacy,” he said.
Thailand’s military has a past of intervening in politics and has seized power 12 times since the end of the complete monarchy – and the introduction of the first constitution – in 1932. The March vote will be the first since Mr. Prayuth defeated the democratic government and ousted ex-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra. Both Mr. Shinawatra and his sister currently live in self-imposed exile. The country’s current Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, also announced on Friday that he would be running for prime minister in the current election. The army chief, who detained power in a military coup in 2014, will be running as a candidate for the pro-military Palang Pracharat party.
Born in 1951, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi is the eldest child of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. After marrying an American in 1972, she relinquished her royal title and moved to the US. After her divorce she returned to Thailand and once again started contributing in royal life. The princess involves actively in social media and has also starred in several Thai movies. She had three children, one of whom died in the 2004 tsunami while the other two still live in the US.
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