Thailand’s Movie Star Princess Is Running for Prime Minister

Princess Ubolratana to contest Thailand elections as PM candidate

The nomination of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, the elder sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, promised to upend Thailand's already turbulent politics because it breaks the long-standing tradition of the royalty staying out of politics.

Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's nomination Friday by an opposition party had upended politics in Thailand and threatened the palace's decades-long tradition of eschewing political involvement.

It will be the first vote since current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha took power in 2014, overthrowing the democratic government and ousting ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of Mr Thaksin.

The 67-year-old princess did not address the royal rebuke head-on Saturday morning, when she thanked supporters on her widely followed Instagram account and said vaguely that she wanted Thailand to "move forward". Though Ubolratana does not have any royal titles and is not covered under lese majeste laws as of now - she relinquished her royal status back in 1972 - it is hard to imagine that her status would not affect how polls would be conducted.

"This is a senior royal member, the sister of the king, so this is unprecedented in Thai politics", said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Aligning with a top royal could've potentially cleared the way for his return to Thailand, where he faces jail time for a conviction in a corruption case he has called politically motivated.

Thaksin was ousted by the military in a 2006 coup.

Shortly after Ubolratana's name was submitted, her political rivals sought to have her candidacy revoked.

Her shock entrance into frontline Thai politics was a first by a member of the powerful royal family and promised to reshape the political landscape of the country.

On Friday morning, it was confirmation of Ubolratana's unprecedented candidacy that was the stunner, as the development grabbed headlines and saw footage of the 67-year-old, in recent times an actress, aired repeatedly on global news channels.

Ubolratana, a colorful, public-facing royal in contrast to her more restrained brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn, relinquished her royal titles after marrying the American Peter Jensen in 1972.

Friday was the last day political parties could nominate their prime ministerial candidates.

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A telecom tycoon who entered politics in the 1990s, Thaksin won the support of millions of rural Thais with expanded welfare programs, but opponents accused him of graft and challenging the power of the monarchy.

Thai Princess Ubolratana's unprecedented attempt to become the country's next prime minister was abruptly nixed Saturday after her party agreed to comply with a command from the king opposing the plan.

The conflict between the Bangkok-centered, royalist elites and Thaksin and his more rural-based supporters has resulted in street protests, military coups, and violent clashes over nearly 15 years.

Most observers of Thai politics agree Thaksin aggressively pursued good relations with Ubolratana's brother, current King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and friendship with the princess herself.

"Thai Raksa Chart is a leading contender now".

The election committee has also not responded to her announcement yet, saying its members would gather on Monday.

Now, Ubolratana threatens to redraw lines of allegiance in Thai society, as a member of the monarchy who is running against the leader of the pro-royalist military.

The Election Commission is required to endorse all candidates by next Friday.

The siblings are the children of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 after a record breaking 70 years on the throne. She returned to Thailand in the late 1990s after getting a divorce.

The princess engages actively in social media and has also starred in several Thai movies.

Thailand has among the world's toughest lese-majeste laws, which make it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir apparent or regent.

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