Thailand election panel disqualifies princess as PM candidate

Thai King Dashes Sister's Political Dreams

The Thai political party that nominated a princess as its candidate for prime minister could be banned from election next month after an activist said yesterday he would file a petition seeking its dissolution.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also announced his candidacy the same day as Princess Ubolratana did, will be running for the post as a representative for a new pro-military party established by his loyalists.

But in a statement read out on all television stations within hours of her candidacy, King Vajiralongkorn said it was "inappropriate" for members of the royal family to enter politics.

Thai law stipulates that once a name is submitted, it can not be withdrawn - though the Electoral Commission has the power to decide the legitimacy of candidates.

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, but the royal family wields great influence and commands the devotion of millions of Thais, with the king considered to be semi-divine.

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having the king's flamboyant older sister Ubolratana run for prime minister, although her nomination can not be legally withdrawn.

Fears of the third military coup since 2006 - just weeks from a planned election on March 24 - were reignited after tanks appeared and army chiefs were dispatched to Munich, in Germany, where the king resides.

The nomination of the king's older sister, who has starred in soap operas and an action movie was a shocking move.

Ubolratana Mahidol has filled many roles in her 67 years, from Thai princess and royal rebel to Californian mother, pop singer, film actress, charity worker and flamboyant social media celebrity.

Thai Raksa Chart's executive chairman Chaturon Chaisaeng declined to comment on the request to disband it.

The Thai royal family, a revered institution shielded from criticism by a tough defamation law, has traditionally been seen as above the political fray, although royals have intervened in moments of political crisis.

Electoral law forbids parties from using the monarchy in campaigns. The party said it would accept the king's message and "move forward into the election arena to solve problems for the country".

Thai Raksa Chart is one of several pro-Thaksin parties contesting the election.

The pro-Thaksin camp's bid to nominate a member of the royal family electrified the election race, but it could backfire on Thai Raksa Chart, said Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political science professor at Ubon Ratchathani University.

"Things are now more unpredictable", Titipol told Reuters. Each of their governments has been removed by court rulings or coups since 2006.

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