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Army-aligned party buoyed amid Thai political turmoil

11 February 2019

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.

A staunch royalist and an opponent of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Mr Prayut accepted the nomination of pro-military Palang Pracharath Party to be its prime ministerial candidate in the upcoming elections. It contains provisions endorsing the special status of the royal institution in line with the constitutional monarchy rule.

The royal family has a long-standing tradition of staying out of politics, and electoral law forbids parties from using the monarchy in campaigns.

Princess Ubolratana had claimed she was exercising her rights as a commoner to stand for election but she undermined her own candidacy by listing the royal "Grand Palace" as her residence on official registration papers.

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A day after the party's swift response saying it "complies with the royal command" to retract the princess' candidacy, Thai Raksa Chart issued a statement Sunday saying their party policies remain unchanged.

"Involvement of a high-ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is considered an act that defies the nation's traditions, customs and culture, and therefore is considered extremely inappropriate".

The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, had announced the princess as their candidate Friday morning - a move which rattled the status quo and threatened the ambitions of the generals in power. Analysts say the king's intervention would in any case have been likely to have led to the election commission disqualifying her from the 24 March election.

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the king's flamboyant older sister Ubolratana run for prime minister, although her nomination can not be legally withdrawn.

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

Still, Paiboon Nititawan, the pro-military People Reform Party leader, has called on the Election Commission to meet Monday to consider dissolving the Thai Raksa Party for nominating the princess despite withdrawing her nomination. She said she would work with all sincerity and determination for the prosperity of all Thais.

"I would like to say once again that I want to see Thailand moving forward, being admirable and acceptable by worldwide countries, want to see all Thais have rights, a chance, good living, happiness to all", she said, ending her post with an "#ILoveYou" hashtag.

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Army-aligned party buoyed amid Thai political turmoil