Thailand's royalty makes an unprecedented move into politics

08 February, 2019, 15:00 | Author: Carlos George
  • Thailand election: Thai princess to stand as PM candidate

Prayuth, who led the 2014 military coup that ousted Thailand's last elected government, on Friday also accepted his nomination as candidate for prime minister by the Palang Pracharat Party, widely seen as a proxy for the military.

Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich, holds up application of candidate for Prime Minister, Thailand's Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, at the election commission office in Bangkok, Thailand February 8, 2019.

But after their divorce she returned home to Thailand, where officials treat her as a member of the royal family.

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.

The nomination of Thailand's princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavad has sent shockwaves through the country's political landscape.

"In everything we do we must devote our heart, our knowledge, every part of ourselves", she said in 2017 in a speech to mark her father's birthday.

When Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne, conventional wisdom saw him as tightening his grip on power by allying himself closely with the military.

"This is a game changer", said Allen Hicken, a political scientist at the University of MI specializing in Southeast Asian studies.

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She's one of several royals to famously give up their title for love, from Britain's King Edward, who abdicated to marry American Wallis Simpson in 1936 to Japan's Princess Mako, who's announced her intention to give up up her royal title to marry Kei Komuro, a lawyer. She has three children with Jensen and does not return to Thailand for eight years. Born in 1951, she studied mathematics and biochemistry before earning a master's degree in public health, all in the US.

Many economists and analysts reached by The Nation on Friday refused to make any comment citing the current situation is too sensitive for them to air their opinions.

1991: Ubolratana appears more frequently in the limelight on Thai magazine covers, society parties and fashion events. Ubolratana falls into a grey area, as she is commonly called and treated as a princess. She has since performed royal duties but never fully regained her royal title.

2002: Ubolratana launches "To Be Number One" under royal patronage.

Princess Ubolratana, 67, chairs four non-profit foundations championing anti-drug campaigns, support for autism and the poor, as well as other charitable foundations, according to the Thai Ministry of Culture.

Her son was killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

2008: She makes silver screen debut with "Where the Miracle Happens", a film based on a novel she wrote in which she stars as a businesswoman who becomes a volunteer teacher.

Her relationship with her brother, King Vajiralongkorn, is less clear. Ubolratana and Thaksin's daughter exchange messages of support on social media during the late king's mourning period.

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