Thai body seeks to dissolve party that nominated princess for PM

Election commission calls nomination of Princess Ubolratana by Thai Raksa Chart 'hostile to constitutional monarchy'.
The Thai Raksa Chart party had named Princess Ubolratana its prime ministerial candidate for the March 24 vote. / Internet photo

Thailand's Election Commission says it will ask the constitutional court to dissolve a party that in an unprecedented but ill-fated move put forward a princess to run for prime minister in the country's upcoming general elections.

In a statement on Wednesday, the election body said the Thai Raksa Chart party violated an electoral law with its shock nomination of the Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi last week.

"The action is considered hostile to the constitutional monarchy," the statement said.

The move came two days after the commission disqualified the 67-year-old princess from taking part in the March 24 election, the country's first election in eight years.

Although the electoral officials did not provide an explanation for her disqualification, it is widely believed the decision derived from a statement by King Maha Vajiralongkorn calling his elder sister's involvement in politics unconstitutional and inappropriate, just hours after her nomination was announced on Friday.

Military government

Princess Ubolratana's short-lived nomination broke with a long-standing tradition of members of the royal family, which wields great influence and commands the devotion of millions, staying out of politics.

What made her bid particularly notable was her alliance with a party that is part of the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is loathed by many royalists and others in the country's traditional establishment.

The whirlwind events have reignited longstanding political tensions in Thailand, which is still run by a military government that seized power in a 2014 coup and ousted the government of Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Since the coup, the military government had used strict laws against protests and political activity to keep the tension from bubbling to the surface.

Late on Tuesday, the princess issued an apology for causing "problems".

"I'm sorry that my sincere determination to work for the country and the people has caused problems that shouldn't have happened in this day and age," she wrote on her Instagram page.

After the king overruled its candidate, Thai Raksa Chart avowed its fealty to him and acceptance of his order, but its opponents urged its dissolution.

Before the Election Commission made its recommendation, the party leader Preechapol Pongpanit called for the body to hear its defense.

"If they don't let us tell our side, it'd be as if we were tied by our hands and feet," he said.

Agencies