Thursday, February 21, 2019 | ePaper

Thailand`s Princess Ubolratana to run for PM against junta chief

  • Print


Thai Princess Ubolratana will run for prime minister in upcoming elections.

AFP, Bangkok :
A Thai princess will run for prime minister in upcoming elections, in a stunning twist that pits the high-profile royal against the chief of the ruling junta who had hoped to maintain his grip on politics.
Princess Ubolratana, the older sister of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, emerged as a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart party steered by the divisive Shinawatra political clan.
"The board agrees that the name of Princess Ubolratana, an educated and skilled person, is the most suitable choice," Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters.
The party falls under the tutelage of Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire self-exiled former premier, who stands at the heart of Thailand's bitter decade-long political schism - loathed by the army and Bangkok elite, yet adored by the rural poor.
The announcement means a royal-fronted party tied to the Shinawatras will directly take on the military party, whose own candidate was also announced Friday as junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.
Prayut has headed the junta for nearly five years, scripting a new constitution in a bid to recast the entire political system to ensure the army has a foothold on power after elections on March 24.
But the shock entrance of 67-year-old Ubolratana is likely to throw the military's plans into disarray.
In a day of high political drama, Prayut declared his candidacy for premier moments after the princess.
"I agree to accept the invitation by Phalang Pracharat to nominate me to be appointed as premier," he said in an unusually conciliatory statement released to media.
"I want to reassure that I do not intend to hang on to power. It is not easy for me to make my decision… it is a crucial moment for the country." -
The military under Prayut has cast itself as the protector of the monarchy.
But Ubolratana's sudden entrance into politics, aligned with the junta's nemesis - the Shinawatra family - undercuts those claims.
It also potentially bridges the political divide between the "Red" shirted loyalists to Thaksin and the "Yellow" shirted royalist supporters, whose violent clashes have scarred Thailand's recent history.
Ubolratana, a colourful, public-facing royal in contrast to her more restrained brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn, relinquished her royal titles after marrying an American decades ago.
But the couple divorced and she moved back to Thailand where she is still considered part of the royal family.
Thailand has not had a royal as premier since becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1932.
It was not immediately clear if Ubolratana would be covered by the kingdom's hardline royal defamation law - which carries up to 15 years in jail per charge - or how that could impact debate and criticism in the run up to elections.
"It is unprecedented if she becomes prime minister," said Puangthong Pawakapan, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University.
"Can people treat her like a commoner? Who would dare criticise a royal prime minister?"
Known to the public for lead roles in Thai films, onstage singing performances, vibrant fashion sense and a prolific Instagram following, Ubolratana is the first-born child of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

More News For this Category

News In Brief

Pak Provincial Assembly Speaker arrested AP, Islamabad  Pakistan's anti-corruption body says it has arrested the speaker of a provincial assembly and member of an opposition party headed by former President

Flynn pushed to share nuclear tech with Saudis: Congressional report

AP, Washington :Senior White House officials pushed a project to share nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia despite the objections of ethics and national security officials, according to a

Palestinian President rejects tax money from Israel

Palestinian President rejects tax money from Israel

Reuters, Ramallah, West Bank :The Palestinian Authority (PA) will no longer accept tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel following its decision to trim the sum over the

Putin promises Russians better living conditions 'within this year'

Putin promises Russians better living conditions 'within this year'

AFP, Moscow  :President Vladimir Putin promised Russians rapid improvements in their living conditions as he delivered his annual state of the nation address Wednesday under pressure from falling approval

Pakistan PM urges talks on Kashmir blast, warns India against attack

Pakistan PM urges talks on Kashmir blast, warns India against attack

Reuters, Islamabad :Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday Pakistan was ready to cooperate with India in its investigation of a deadly bombing in the disputed Kashmir region last

Japan trial to treat spinal cord injuries with stem cells

Japan trial to treat spinal cord injuries with stem cells

AFP, Tokyo :The health ministry approved Monday the world's first clinical test in which artificially derived stem cells will be used to treat patients with spinal cord injuries.A team

IS defends final pocket of dying 'caliphate' in Syria

IS defends final pocket of dying 'caliphate' in Syria

AFP, Baghouz (Syria) :Islamic State group jihadists were defending the last pocket of their "caliphate" in Syria on Monday, as EU foreign ministers meet to discuss the crisis after

Australia says 'state actor' hacked parties, parliament

Australia says 'state actor' hacked parties, parliament

AFP, Sydney :Australia on Monday said a "sophisticated state actor" had hacked the country's main political parties and parliament, just weeks before a closely fought election.Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Russia pioneering return of 'ISIS children'

Russia pioneering return of 'ISIS children'

AFP, Moscow :As the end nears for the IS enclave in Syria and the fate of jihadists' family members becomes a prescient issue, Russia can be seen as a

`Crime may have been committed` by Trump: Ex-FBI official

`Crime may have been committed` by Trump: Ex-FBI official

AP, Washington :Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said in an interview that aired Sunday that a "crime may have been committed" when President Donald Trump fired the head