Thailand’s king has issued an order saying no member of the royal family should be involved in politics, quashing a bid by his older sister to run for prime minister in next month’s elections.
An order issued by King Maha Vajiralongkorn read out on national television said his sister’s candidacy was inappropriate and violated the constitution’s intent.
Princess Ubolratana Mahidol’s nomination earlier on Friday by an opposition party had upended politics in Thailand and threatened the palace’s decades-long tradition of eschewing political involvement.
Many Thais had assumed the princess would not have sought the nomination without her brother’s blessing and were surprised that he would have supported her association with a party that is considered unsympathetic to the monarchy.
The selection of 67-year-old Princess Ubolratana by the Thai Raksa Chart Party looked like a shock realignment of Thai politics, as she became linked with a political machine that had been dismissed by hardcore royalists as opposed in spirit to the monarchy.
Her selection to lead the government after the March 24 general election would also have pitted her against the preferred candidate of the military, which is considered one of Thailand’s most royalist institutions.
Current prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup that ousted Thailand’s last elected government, accepted his selection as candidate to lead the next government by the Palang Pracharat Party, widely considered a proxy for the military.
The princess is the first-born child of the late King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit.
Although her father’s favourite, she was virtually disowned by him in 1972 when she married an American who was a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She lost two of her royal titles and lived in the US, where she and her husband Peter Jensen had three children.
Only after a bitter divorce did she move back permanently to Thailand in 2001.
Since then she has thrown herself into charity work, especially her foundation to fight youth drug abuse.
She also frequently promotes Thai tourism and movies at international forums. In general, like most of the royal family, she publicly kept herself aloof from Thailand’s recent political turmoil.