A Thai political party's stunning decision to nominate the king's sister as its candidate for Prime Minister backfired when the monarch forbade her to do so.
Thai Princess Ubolratana was put forward Friday as a candidate for prime minister in the March elections, the first time a royal has entered frontline politics - a development the palace later condemned as "highly inappropriate".
The unexpected nomination of Ubolratana posed a turnaround in the political scenario in Thailand ahead of the March 24 general elections, in which the head of the junta and current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha will seek another term.
As of early Saturday morning, she had not withdrawn her candidacy, nor had Thailand's Election Commission officially disqualified her.
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. They settled in the United States where they had three children.
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The party falls under the tutelage of Thaksin, a billionaire self-exiled former premier, who stands at the heart of Thailand's bitter political schism - loathed by the army and Bangkok elite, yet adored by the rural poor for health, welfare and education schemes.
He called the monarchy "the centre that glues the hearts of the Thai people together" and said both "the monarch and the royal family members are above politics".
The statement said the party accepts the king's order.
His Majesty the King tried to soften the blow Friday by acknowledging that his 67-year-old sister had already relinquished her formal royal titles, and he praised her for conducting charity work and otherwise earning the love of her family and the Thai people. The move would have presented a serious challenge to Thailand's military junta, which has ruled since a coup in 2014, and would have marked a potential comeback for Thaksin and his populist political movement.
The princess accepted the nomination of the Thai Raksa Chart party - one of several parties linked to Thaksin and his sister Yingluck - meaning, the candidacy would at least have needed his endorsement.
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"All royal family members adhere to the same principles. and can not take any political office, because it contradicts the intention of the Constitution".
2001: Ubolratana and her children permanently return to Thailand.
Ms Ubolratana's foray into politics follows a long period of mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016, and as her brother establishes himself on the throne.
"I would like to say once again that I want to see Thailand moving forward, being admirable and acceptable by global countries, want to see all Thais have rights, a chance, good living, happiness to all", she said, concluding with the #ILoveYou hashtag. While it does not technically apply to Ubolratana, who lost her highest royal titles when she married an American more than four decades ago, its scope has been widened in recent years to nearly anything that sullies the royal institution, making criticism of the princess highly problematical. "The provisions also cover the queen, heir-apparent and royal family members close to the king". The other two now also live in Thailand.
Ubolratana, a mathematics and biochemistry graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a reputation for being more accessible to commoners than the rest of the royal family.
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