“To involve a high-level member of the royal family in politics, directly or indirectly, is against royal traditions, norms and the national culture,” King Maha Vajiralongkorn said Friday night, adding that “it is deemed extremely inappropriate.”
His statement came after Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, Vajiralongkorn’s 67-year-old older sister, said she would stand as the prime ministerial candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party (Thai Save The Nation, or TSN) aligned with populist former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in a 2005 coup.
One of her leading opponents will be the military-backed current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, who announced his own candidacy Friday.
Thai Raksa Chart Party chief Lt. Preechapon Pongpanich confirmed the announcement in a statement Friday. “After the meeting among our executives, we have concluded to send Princess Ubolratana as our PM candidate. She is (a) knowledgeable and capable person,” he said. “After the meeting we reached out to her, and she has been gracefully kind and accepted our invitation.”
Thai Raksa Chart is an offshoot of Pheu Thai, the latest incarnation of Thaksin’s party that has won every election since 2001.
The candidacy of a close member of the royal family is unprecedented in Thailand since the era of absolute monarchy ended 86 years ago.
It is currently unclear what effect the King’s statement will have on Ubolratana’s decision or ability to run. In a statement following her brother’s, the princess thanked “all Thais for the love and moral support given to me in the past day.”
“I want to say again with sincerity that I want to see Thailand move forward,” she said. “I want to see all Thais have rights and the chance to live well and be happy.”
In a statement Saturday, TSN said it accepted Vajiralongkorn’s words “with our loyalty to the King and all royal family members.”
“TSN feels deeply touched from the kindness of Princess Ubolratana who has given her generosity to TSN,” the statement continued.
“TSN will comply with the Electoral Commission’s regulations, election laws, constitution and to royal traditions with respect, and (it stands) ready to bring prosperity to Thailand with respecting the decision of the people under democratic system with the kind as our head of state.”
Whether Ubolratana’s candidacy continues falls on the Electoral Commission, which must decide whether to keep her on the ballot, as Thai law stipulates that once a name is submitted, it cannot be withdrawn.