Thai princess’s run for prime minister ends after royal command from the king, her younger brother

Thai princess’s run for prime minister ends after royal command from the king, her younger brother
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HONG KONG – Thailand’s election commission on Monday excluded a Thai princess from its list of candidates for prime minister in the upcoming elections, ending her brief and dramatic entry into politics after opposition from her brother, the king.

The election commission’s exclusion was widely expected after a late night statement from King Maha Vajiralongkorn just hours after his elder sister put her name forward as the candidate for a populist political party on Friday.

In a statement, the commission said that its decision was based on a royal command issued on Friday, in which King Vajiralongkorn called his sister’s bid “extremely inappropriate” and “against the nation’s traditions, culture and customs.”

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, 67, stunned Thailand when she was nominated by the Thai Raksa Chart party, aligned with ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his populist political movement. She broke a long-standing tradition in which the Thai monarchy is seen as above the political fray and allied herself with Thaksin’s political movement, long-criticized as anti-monarchist and anti-establishment.

A May 15, 2008 file photo of Princess Ubolratana of Thailand at the Cannes International Film Festival. FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

The election commission, in its statement Monday, added that members of the royal family should refrain from politics and cannot “hold any political office.”

The commission’s list did include Thailand’s current prime minister and junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, running under the banner of the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party, which is widely expected to win.

The Thai military, led by Prayuth, staged a coup in 2014 to overthrow the last elected government and its prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister. The March elections will mark the first vote since the coup.

A May 9, 2016 file photo of then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn Sakchai Lalit / Associated Press

Thailand’s monarchy is deeply revered in society and has been seen as a unifying force above the divisions in the country. The government operates as a constitutional monarchy, where the monarch is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government.

Ubolratana on Saturday said in an Instagram post that she wanted the country “move forward and be admired by international countries.” She did not comment on her candidacy and could not be reached for comment on Monday.

A petition has been filed with the election commission to disqualify the Thai Raksa Chart party entirely, and exclude them from the election. The party was set up as an alternative to Thaksin’s Pheu Thai Party, in case it were to be dissolved by election authorities ahead of the vote.

His movement has won every democratic election in Thailand since 2001, but Thaksin and his sister live as exiles outside the country on corruption and other charges they say are politically motivated.
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