The sister of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn is now seen as a leading prime ministerial candidate for a political party loyal to fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra in the March 24 elections.
The Thai Raksa Chart party dropped the political bombshell this morning.
67 year old Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi broke a long-standing tradition of Thai royalty staying out of politics by entering the election in an unprecedented move.
But the Princess ceded all her royal titles to marry an American, Peter Jensen in 1972, with whom she had two daughters and a son. Her son, Khun Poom, died when the tsunami hit Phang nga province on December 26, 2004.
She later divorced and returned to Thailand for permanent residence in 2001 after spending about 26 years in the US.
Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932 but the royal family wields great influence and commands the devotion of millions of Thais.
The Princess is now registered as a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart party, an off-shoot of the Thaksin-backed Pheu Thai Party which is also contesting the forthcoming election.
The election, despite the smokescreen of ‘national conciliation’ is still seen as a battle between Thaksin’s populists (the Red Shirts) and allies of the royalist-military establishment (the Yellow Shirts).
The move from the Thai Raksa Chart party is broadly speculated to have been engineered by former PM Thaksin in the fugitive’s ongoing interference, in exile, with Thai politics.
The Princess has had links with Thaksin in the past and, although still the sister of the current King of Thailand, will not be protected by any of the lese majeste rules that govern members of the Thai Royal Family.
Still, she has been working along with other Royal Family members since her return to Thailand and has been working with many charities and conducting ‘Royal’ duties without carrying the title of HRH.
Like any other politician, she will likely be open to criticism as the campaign warms up. But her family connections will certainly become an issue when she is discussed and covered by Thai media, and fellow politicians.
The entry of Princess Ubolratana (pronounced ‘Oo-bon-rart-tar-NA’) into the political fray throws the old battles into a new battlefield and political commentators and analysts are going back to the drawing board to figure out how this new dynamic will affect the election.
One of the key losers from the announcement will be the current PM and head of Thailand’s military junta, Prayut Chan-ocha. He announced this morning that he will contest the March elections as a candidate for prime minister.
His announcement went almost unheard as the Thai media scrambled for new and analysis on the other BIG announcement of the day.
Asked to comment on the nomination, Deputy PM Wisanu Kreangarm only said: “If I can comment, I will say so. But I cannot comment.”
Asked if he was surprised, he shot back asking “Were you surprised?”
Army Chief spits the dummy and orders the playing of military song
Contributors Jitraporn Sennawong and Kas Chanwanpen – The Nation
If you’re the Thai Army Chief, and a bit miffed that some political parties are including scaling back military spending in their election policies, what do you do?
Why of course you order Army radio stations in the Kingdom to play a jingoistic, and offensive to many, military-themed song, “Nak Phaendin”.
Angry with politicians proposing a cut in the defence budget, the Thai Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong ordered the ultra-rightist song to be aired every day on 160 Army radio stations across the country.
He later withdrew the order.
The song, also played within military camps and the Army headquarters, was to air twice every day before Apirat had a change of mind. The Army chief reasoned earlier that the anthem broadcast was aimed at encouraging everyone to be “aware of their duties and responsibilities towards the country”.
“All this time, some people have been critical and distorting the truth to create misunderstanding about the work of the government and the Army. So, all units should clarify it using the media in its hands.”
The order was issued yesterday almost immediately after Army top brass told politicians, including Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan from Pheu Thai Party, who are proposing a reduction in the defence budget as one of their policy planks, to “listen to the song”.
The song, titled “Nak Phaendin”, is recorded with a military band and a mocking voice. The title means “burden to the country” and says one who is “worthless” or an “enemy of the nation” should be eliminated.
The song was composed in 1975 by an Army officer and was part of the propaganda used against the communist movement in Thailand. An anthem for a time, place and purpose. Not 2019.
“They criticised the military out of their idiocy. They fell for lies and slander. Let me ask you: Are soldiers hurting or killing or bullying us nowadays? No,” user Sita Piro wrote in a news thread by Nation Weekend.
“The real Scum of the Earth are these soldiers who exploit their uniforms to seek power,” user Pitak Chairungreang wrote in the same thread.
The song features lyrics that condemn any act of treason, including ungratefulness to the monarchy, instigating conflict among Thais and treachery.
In the notorious student massacre on October 6, 1976 at Thammasat University, “Nak Phaendin” was frequently played to justify the crackdown as well as to boost the courage of right-wingers who had engaged in elimination of the alleged threat. Top Army members and leaders of the ruling junta yesterday also appeared protective of the Army’s interests in opposing the policy proposal to reduce the defence budget.
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday openly warned politicians to be mindful of their language during the electoral campaign. If they did not consider reality and the national interest, they would have to take responsibility for their actions one day.
General Prayut is now a ‘politician’ running for electoral office as the prime ministerial candidate for the Palang Pracharat party on March 24. He has refused to stand aside as the country’s PM during the campaign.
2,810 MP candidates line up for March 24 election
107 candidates, for positions as Members of Parliament, and two prime ministerial candidates have been disqualified from running in the March Thai general election.
Of the 2,917 party-list registered candidates, from 77 political parties, 2,810 candidates and 68 prime ministerial candidates from 44 parties have qualified after being checked by the Election Commission.
While the EC didn’t disclose the names of the disqualified candidates, one of them is serving a term in jail and another didn’t complete university-level education as legally required.
The EC didn’t publish a list of the MP or prime ministerial candidates but says that parties or individual candidates can check for themselves by using the ‘Smart Vote’ application.
Disqualified candidates will be able to lodge complaints or appeals with the Supreme Court within seven days.
Eligible voters and candidates are entitled to challenge the EC’s decisions by means of a petition submitted to the EC within seven days.
SOURCE: Thai PBS
Voters like Prayut as PM but prefer Pheu Thai as the party they will vote for
With the election campaign now digging into its first week on the hustings, the polls are starting to indicate where the early poll sentiments are leaning.
Thai PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha is the favourite for the prime minster’s position following the election, but Pheu Thai is the party people want to see lead the formation of the new government, according to an opinion survey. Pheu Thai has won the majority of votes in every election contested since 2001. Their stronghold is in the country’s population-rich north-easter and northern regions.
Yesterday’s Nida Poll was conducted between February 5-7 and interviewed 2,091 people nationwide.
PM Gen Prayut, who is now the prime ministerial candidate for the Palang Pracharath Party, received 26% of the poll support to be the next PM. He was followed closely by Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan of the Pheu Thai Party at 24%.
12% y they’re uncertain while the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva received 11.4% support. 6.3% say they will not vote for anyone.
6% want to see the newcomer Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of the Future Forward Party as PM.
Choosing a party to win the majority of votes in the March 24 poll, 36.5% chose Pheu Thai, followed by 22.6% for Palang Pracharath, Democrat – 15.2%, Future Forward – 8.2% and Seri Ruam Thai – 5%.
The main priorities voters wanted the new government to address included ‘the economy’ – 54.8%, farm price slumps – 27.9%, free education up to a bachelor’s degree – 4.3% and fighting corruption.
98% say they will vote on March 24. 1% said they won’t and the other 1% said they weren’t sure.
The election has the highest number of MPs running for office of any election in the past.
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