Thai Princess is Thaksin’s PM choice

Her surprise entry ahead of the March 24 elections deals a heavy blow to the ruling junta’s head

A Thai princess will run for Prime Minister in March elections in an unprecedented entry by a royal into front-line politics, pitting her against the chief of the ruling junta and redrawing the nation’s political landscape. Princess Ubolratana, 67, the older sister of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, was announced as a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart party, steered by the divisive Shinawatra political clan. The Thai monarchy, a revered institution shielded from criticism by a tough defamation law, has traditionally been seen as above the political fray, although royals have intervened in moments of political crisis. Shinawatra’s hold The party falls under the tutelage of Mr. Shinawatra, 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 was toppled in a 2006 coup, while his sister Yingluck was booted from power in a 2014 military takeover and forced into exile to avoid a jail term. The Princess’s move deals a heavy blow to the aspirations of Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the junta head, who has spent nearly five years trying to recast the political system to limit the power of elected governments and prepare his own return as a civilian leader. In a day of high drama, Mr. Chan-O-Cha declared his candidacy for Premier, running for the Phalang Pracharat army party, moments after the Princess’s announcement. The military under Mr. Chan-O-Cha has cast itself as the protector of the monarchy. But Princess Ubolratana’s shock entrance into politics, aligned with the junta’s nemesis, undercuts those claims. She relinquished her royal titles after marrying the American Peter Jensen in 1972. But the couple divorced and she moved back to Thailand. Analysts said she is not technically covered by the kingdom’s royal defamation law — which carries heavy jail sentences — but given the culture of deference to royalty, she is unlikely to face the scrutiny given to most politicians.
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