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'Political Earthquake' as Thai Princess Runs for PM Against Military Junta

'Political Earthquake' as Thai Princess Runs for PM Against Military Junta

The sister of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has entered the race to become prime minister in next month’s elections in an unprecedented move that redraws the country’s political landscape.

Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi said she was exercising her rights as a citizen in accepting an offer to represent the Thai Raksa Chart party. She is the first member of the royal family to run for the office of PM, and will face the coup leader and head of Thailand’s military junta, Prayut Chan-o-cha, who said on Friday he was running to “maintain peace and order”.

The Thai monarchy, a revered institution shielded from criticism by strict lese-majesty laws, is traditionally seen as above the political fray, although royals have intervened in moments of political crisis.

Thai Raksa Chart is allied to the former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, but has led the party from exile. The party was created by Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party after the military junta threatened to dissolve it. Ubolratana has openly maintained close ties with Thaksin.

The princess is the older sister of King Vajiralongkorn and eldest child of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. She gave up her official royal title when she married Peter Ladd Jensen, a US citizen and fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology student, in 1972, but is still considered part of the royal family.

“I have relinquished my royal titles and lived as a commoner,” Ubolratana, 67, said in an Instagram post. “I have accepted the Thai Raksa Chart party nomination for prime minister to show my rights and freedom without any privileges above other fellow Thai citizens under the constitution.”

The announcement was a profound and unprecedented development that had created a political earthquake, said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University.

Prior to Ubolratana’s intervention, the election had been viewed as a battle between Thaksin’s populists and their allies, and the royalist-military establishment.

 

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