Thai commission to rule on princess running for PM after king's rebuke

Thai Princess Ubolratana Mahidol waves to Thai people outside Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. The selection of the elder sister of Thailand’s king as a political party nominee for prime minister has upended a tradition of the palace playing no publi

On Sunday, an activist said he would file a petition to disqualify the Thai Raksa Chart party.

But the Thai king torpedoed the bid in a sharply worded statement later the same day that said bringing senior royal family members into politics is against tradition, national culture and "highly inappropriate".

Bangkok Post reported that the opposition was made on the grounds that the princess "is still a royal family member who is not allowed to take political positions" despite having legally relinquished her royal titles, following her marriage to Peter Jensen, a citizen of the United States, who she had met whilst studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, had announced the princess as their candidate Friday morning - a move which rattled the status quo and threatened the ambitions of the generals in power.

The current prime minister and former army chief led a 2014 coup that ousted a civilian government to end a prolonged period of sometimes deadly unrest. Riot police units were on high alert in Pichit province, north of Bangkok, where the princess was due to visit later this week, according to Matichon newspaper.

That ends a bold gambit by the anti-military coalition to boost its popularity and insulate itself against charges of being anti-monarchy, by having the king's flamboyant older sister Ubolratana run for prime minister, although her nomination can not be legally withdrawn.

"The royal announcement made it clear that the party violated electoral law", Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, told Reuters news agency.

The statement added that the party is ready to do its duty with respect to the "tradition and royal customs" under Thailand's constitutional monarchy.

A spokesman for Thai Raksa Chart said the party "graciously accepts" the King's reservations and will follow "the royal command with loyalty to the king and all members of the royal family".

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Ultra-royalists are now demanding that Thai Raksa Chart be dissolved.

"We will keep moving forward in the election so that we can solve the problems for the people and country", the party said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is also running for the prime ministership as the candidate of a pro-military party.

Since Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in 2006, Thailand's establishment has had little success in trying to weaken his political machine with constitutional amendments, court rulings and changes to the electoral system.

Application form of candidate for Prime Minister, Thailand's Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, is seen at the election commission office in Bangkok, Thailand February 8, 2019.

The gambit to nominate a member of the royal family could backfire on Thai Raksa Chart, said Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the faculty of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University.

"Things are now more unpredictable", Titipol told Reuters.

Thaksin, himself ousted in a coup in 2006, lives in self-imposed exile after being convicted by a Thai court of corruption in absentia.

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