With her party agreeing to comply with a command from the king, Thai Princess Ubolratana's unprecedented attempt to become the country's next prime minister has been abruptly nixed.
After an extraordinary rebuke by her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the party has made an announcement effectively blocking Ubolratana's candidacy. The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, had announced the princess as their candidate Friday morning.
But the Thai king torpedoed his sister's bid in a sharply worded statement the same day that said bringing senior royal family members into politics was against tradition and "highly inappropriate". Thai Raksa Chart responded swiftly, cancelling a campaign event Saturday and issuing a statement saying it "complies with the royal command". Thailand has some of the most severe lese majeste laws in the world and the king's word is seldom challenged. Royalist Thais and celebrities praised the intervention on social media after the order, writing "long live the king".
Others expressed unhappiness with groups such as Thai Raksa Chart linked to Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. An activist who called himself Champ 1984 said he was "disappointed" with the idea of a pro-democracy party enlisting a royal family member and would now vote for a different party. According to analysts, the events of the past day will help the military to consolidate power and tilt the odds in favour of junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha. Prayut is standing as premier for the Phalang Pracharat party, a group aligned with the regime.
Professor Anusorn Unno from Thammasat University said the military has "gained the upper hand", and added that it is poised to perform well in the vote. "The palace disapproval invalidates her candidacy," said Puangthong Pawakapan, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University.