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Sat, 09 Feb 2019 11:47 - Updated Sat, 09 Feb 2019 11:46

Thai princess says #ILoveYou to fans after king opposes her PM candidacy

BANGKOK - The Thai princess whose stunning announcement she was running for prime minister was quickly opposed by her brother, the king, thanked her supporters on Saturday, saying she wants Thailand to be “moving forward”, but she did not comment on her candidacy.

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Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, shocked the country on Friday when she announced she would be the prime ministerial candidate for a populist party loyal to ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in a March 24 election.

But her foray into politics - breaking with royal tradition - looked to be short-lived after her younger brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, quickly signaled he opposed it, which is likely to lead to her disqualification.

The Election Commission, which is overseeing the first polls since a 2014 military coup that overthrew a pro-Thaksin government, said it would issue a ruling on the issue on Monday.

The nomination of a royal family member by pro-Thaksin forces was an audacious gambit, potentially undercutting Thaksin’s ardently royalist foes, and setting up an election showdown with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup and heads the military government.

But King Vajiralongkorn’s swift rebuke of his sister’s bid could backfire on pro-Thaksin forces, who could face retribution if judged by election authorities to have tried to illegitimately use a royal connection.

“Friday’s events were astounding and have people completely rethinking their assessments and perspectives and the country’s future political trajectory,” said Jay Harriman, senior director at BowerGroupAsia, a government affairs consultancy.

“The monarchy has semi-divine status in Thailand. Public appearances and statements often pertain to royal duty or events,” he added. “A disagreement like this has almost never happened in recent memory.”

The Thai Raksa Chart party, which nominated Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister, said it “graciously accepts” the king’s statement and would abide by election regulations and royal tradition.

King Vajiralongkorn, 66, issued his message late on Friday, saying his elder sister’s candidacy was “inappropriate” and it was against the spirit of the constitution for royalty to be involved in politics.

While the Election Commission has the final say on approval of candidates, it seems unlikely its members would ignore the powerful influence of the king in making its decision,REUTERS.

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