Thai princess running for prime minister in historic first

Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich holds up application of candidate for Prime Minister Thailand's Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi at the election commission office in Bangkok Thailand on Feb 8 2019

Then just 13 hours later, the king released a late-night statement, known as a royal command, saying Ubolratana's candidacy was "gravely inappropriate" and a violation of the Constitution.

In a day of high drama, junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha also declared his candidacy for premier, running for the pro-military Phalang Pracharat party, moments after the princess's announcement.

The Thai Raksa Chart party, which is aligned with ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, announced on Friday that it would nominate the princess as its candidate for prime minister in elections on March 24, an unprecedented move in a country where the revered monarchy has traditionally been seen as above politics.

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn (or Rama X) has denounced his sister, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi after she announced her bid to become the country's next prime minister.

On Friday Thai King Vajiralongkorn denounced as inappropriate his sister Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's unprecedented bid for political power. Only after a bitter divorce did she move back permanently to Thailand in 2001.

While the king sits above politics, his comments are likely to weigh heavily on the minds of the country's election commission which must rule on whether Ubolratana can enter politics.

It was not immediately clear if Ubolratana would be covered by the kingdom's widely interpreted royal defamation law - which carries up to 15 years in jail per charge - or how that could impact debate and criticism in the run up to elections.

In an Instagram post on Saturday, the 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.

Others expressed unhappiness with groups such as Thai Raksa Chart linked to Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

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The candidacy would have broken with the tradition of the Thai royal family publicly staying out of politics.

The Thai Raksa Chart Party in Thailand has cancelled its campaigning plans for the upcoming elections after the king rejected his sister's candidacy for prime minister.

Prayut, in sharp contrast, is a domineering, splenetic character - an autocratic former general who since he seized power has repressed the naturally rambunctious instincts of Thai politics and society in the self-serving cause of stability. Violent street protests and two military coups have marked the years since.

"This makes Thai Raksa Chart, in a matter of seconds, the front-runner".

An Election Commission official said it is reviewing all candidate applications and will finish the process this week, though few expect it to divert from the royal order.

Ubolratana, 67, completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles, respectively.

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 worldwide news channels. Prayuth on Friday said he'll also contest the poll as the prime ministerial candidate for the Palang Pracharath Party. In terms of the outcome, while Prayut was seen as being the likely victor by far in upcoming polls, the most likely scenario now is a unity, royal-led government with Ubolratana at the helm, with Thaksin's influence at play and some role for Prayut-linked forces as well.

"The party has nominated the princess as its sole candidate", Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters at the Election Commission.

Ubolratana, the eldest child of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1951. She said that she "sincerely wants Thailand to move forward, and be admired by global countries". "The provisions also cover the queen, heir-apparent and royal family members close to the king".

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