King stops sister standing for election in Thailand

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The king of Thailand has blocked his sister’s bid to become prime minister, saying it would breach “ancient royal protocol and national custom”.

In a late night order, King Maha Vajiralongkorn said that even though Princess Ubolratana Mahidol relinquished her title in 1972, she “still retains her status and position as a member of the Chakri dynasty”.

For her to stand as a candidate in the country’s election next month would be a “highly inappropriate act”, he added.

In an Instagram message on Saturday, the princess, who has starred in several soap operas and films, did not mention the king’s order, but did thank people for their support.

It was announced on Friday that she would run as a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart party, which is loyal to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose allies have won every national election since 2001.

Thai Raksa Chart is attempting to defeat Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of Thailand’s military junta, in the election on 24 March.

It will be the first election since a pro-royalist military coup in 2014.

Thai Raksa Chart has now sworn its loyalty to the king, saying it accepted his order, while also expressing its thanks to the princess.

Previously, party leader Preechapol Pongpanich said the princess was “knowledgeable and highly suitable”, adding that he believed there would be “no legal problems in terms of her qualification”.

The king said in his order: “Even though she relinquished her title according to royal laws, she still retains her status and position as a member of the Chakri dynasty.

“Bringing high-ranking royal family members to be involved in the political system, in any way, is an act that is against the ancient royal protocol and national custom and culture, and is seen as a highly inappropriate act.”

Thaksin Shinawatra remains popular with Thailand’s rural majority, who liked policies such as universal health care and rice subsidies.

But his popularity was viewed with suspicion by the Thai establishment, who saw it as a threat to the monarchy.

Swiss-born Princess Ubolratana studied mathematics and biochemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was awarded a master’s degree in public health from the University of California.

She relinquished her royal titles in 1972 after marrying an American student. They lived in the US for more than 26 years but divorced in 1998.

She returned to Thailand in 2001 and continued carrying out royal duties but never regained her full titles.

(c) Sky News 2019: King stops sister standing for election in Thailand

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