February 10, 2019 00:31:39
A Thai political party has sworn loyalty to the king a day after its stunning decision to nominate the monarch’s sister as its candidate for prime minister backfired, when the king called the move “inappropriate” and unconstitutional.
- Pro-Thaksin party pledges loyalty to the king
- They had announced his sister as their candidate for prime minister
- King said it was inappropriate for princess to run for office
The statement of fealty comes as the country ponders a Friday whirlwind in which Princess Ubolratana Mahidol, 67, broke with tradition to become a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party.
Her announcement to run with a populist party loyal to ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra shocked the nation and would have pitted her against the junta leader and current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the preferred choice for premier of the pro-royalist military, ahead of March 24 election.
But swift and public opposition from her younger brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, is likely to lead to her disqualification by the Election Commission.
He said it was against the spirit of the constitution for royalty to be involved in politics.
Thai Raksa Chart’s statement said the party loyally accepted the king’s order and expressed deep gratitude to Princess Ubolratana for her kindness toward the party.
In an Instagram post on Saturday, the princess did not directly mention her brother or her political hopes, but thanked supporters for their “love and kindness toward each other over the past day” and expressed gratitude for their support for her.
“I would like to say once again that I want to see Thailand moving forward, being admirable and acceptable by international countries, want to see all Thais have rights, a chance, good living, happiness to all,” she said, concluding with “#ILoveYou”.
Princess Ubolratana relinquished her royal titles in 1972 when she married an American, a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Peter Jensen. She lived in the United States for more than 26 years before they divorced in 1998.
“Even though she relinquished her title according to royal laws … she still retains her status and position as a member of the Chakri dynasty,” the king’s order said.
“Bringing high-ranking royal family members to be involved in the political system, in any way, is an act that is against the ancient royal protocol and national custom and culture, and is seen as a highly inappropriate act.”
Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, but the royal family has wielded great influence.
It was not only a shock that the princess was formally entering politics, but also that she was doing so in alliance with a Thaksin-backed party.
Thaksin was ousted by the military in a 2006 coup. Deepening political divisions that have flared into protests and street violence.
Just eight years after ousting Thaksin, the military stepped in again to remove his sister’s government.
Thaksin went into exile in 2008 to avoid serving prison time on a conflict of interest conviction he insists was political.
He remains wildly popular with the country’s rural majority, who were drawn to his populist policies such as universal health care and rice subsidies and were willing to overlook accusations that he was enriching himself while in office.
But Thaksin’s popularity made the country’s Bangkok-based establishment uneasy and some saw his popularity as a threat to the monarchy itself.