#ILoveYou: Former princess Ubolratana thanks Thais for support after King blocks her election bid

#ILoveYou: Former princess Ubolratana thanks Thais for support after King blocks her election bid
Former princess Ubolratana Rajakanya posted a message on her Instagram after the King prohibited her from standing in the upcoming election as a candidate for prime minister.
PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Former princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi posted a message on Saturday morning (Feb 9) to thank her supporters, but did not comment on her candidacy.

The older sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn posted the message on her Instagram wall hours after the King prohibited her from standing in the upcoming election as a candidate for prime minister of a pro-Thaksin party.

The 67-year-old princess did not directly mention her brother or her political hopes, but thanked supporters for their "love and kindness toward each other over the past day" and expressed gratitude for their support for her.

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

A political bombshell was dropped on Friday morning when the Thai Raksa Chart party - an offshoot of the larger pro-Thaksin party that was ousted from power in the 2014 coup - nominated the 67-year-old as its sole candidate for prime minister in the upcoming elections.

But about 12 hours later, the King issued a nationally televised royal command saying immediate members of the Royal Family traditionally must stay above politics.

"Involvement of a high-ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is an act that conflicts with the country's traditions, customs, and culture, and therefore is considered extremely inappropriate," the King said in a statement issued by the palace.

The King also cited a provision in the Constitution that states the monarch stays above politics and maintains political neutrality.

"All royal family members adhere to the same principles... and cannot take any political office, because it contradicts the intention of the Constitution."

The leaders of Thai Raksa Chart have declined to comment on the king's statement. The party cancelled plans to launch election campaigns in Bangkok's China Town on Saturday. It informed reporters without explanation that Thai Raksa Chart leader Preechaphol Pongpanit and party campaign chief Nattawut Saikaur would cancel the visit to Yaowarat.

Topping one of the most dramatic weeks in the nation's political history, Thailand's Election Commission said it will meet on Monday (Feb 11) morning, without specifying the agenda.

All parties contesting the election had to submit their candidate lists to the commission on Friday (Feb 8). It's supposed to check and validate the nominations by Feb 15.

While the Election Commission has the final say on approval of candidates, it seems unlikely its members would ignore the powerful influence of the king in making its decision.

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, but the royal family has wielded great influence. Ubolratana relinquished her royal titles in 1972 when she married an American, a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Peter Jensen.

She lived in the United States for more than 26 years before they divorced in 1998.

The princess's main opponent in the March general election, if her nomination were to stand, would likely be Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, who was army chief when he led the 2014 coup and now heads the ruling junta, who also announced his candidacy on Friday.

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