Thai princess withdraws PM bid

Thailand’s junta has been given a boost in its attempts to win power democratically after a princess’ bid to become prime minister was outlawed by her younger brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Princess Ubolratana’s attempt to become premier has been abandoned after her party agreed to comply with a command from the king, opposing her attempt to contest the general election.

After many delays, the election is currently set for March 24.

The political uncertainty looms over an economy that is already feeling the effects of the trade dispute between the US and China.

The export-driven economy is also vulnerable because of the strong baht. Other major looming events include the king’s coronation in May and a series of Asean summits this year.

The Thai Raksa Chart party, backed by ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (pictured), announced the princess as its candidate on Friday, catching the military-appointed government by surprise.

Thaksin’s populist political movement is widely seen as anti-royalist and deeply disliked by the powerful military and the Bangkok elite. Allies of the self-exiled Thaksin deny the anti-royal allegations.

Thaksin and his populist allies have won every general election since 2001, largely built around rural support in northern Thailand, only to be unseated by the courts or coups in 2006 and 2014.

The Constitution Protection Association said it planned to petition the Election Commission about disbanding Thai Raksa Chart for violating rules prohibiting using the monarchy during electoral campaigning.

Supporters of the junta’s Phalang Pracharat party celebrated the royal intervention amid a 60-vehicle convoy by party leaders in Bangkok.

“We won’t work with a party that is not like us: respecting the laws… traditions and Thai customs, something that Thais are very strict about,” party leader Uttama Savanayana said yesterday (Sunday), in an apparent reference to Thai Raksa Chart.

Thailand’s Election Commission is due to meet this morning with discussions expected to include the future of Thai Raksa Chart. There is a possibility the party could be dissolved by the constitutional court.

Thai Raksa Chart remained defiant.

“We will keep moving forward in the election so that we can solve the problems for the people and country,” the party posted on Facebook.

The princess relinquished her royal titles in 1972 when she married an American, Peter Jensen, that she met while a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She took the name Julie Jensen and had three children. They divorced in 1998 and she returned to Thailand in 2001.

Still influential: an old campaign poster for ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Picture credit: Wikimedia