Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn says his elder sister’s candidacy for prime minister in the March 24 election is “inappropriate” and “unconstitutional”.
A strongly worded statement was issued around 11pm last night. It was the second time in less than 24 hours when the Palace had stepped into the murky realm of Thai politics.
Earlier yesterday it was announced by the Thai Raksa Chart Party that Princess Ubolratana, the King’s sister, would run as their sole prime ministerial candidate.
The Thai Raksa Chart Party is an offshoot of the Phue Thai Party and understood to be steered by the divisive Shinawatra political clan.
She would have been running against current Thai PM Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also announced his intention to contest the March 24 elections yesterday. His much-touted announcement ended up as a sideshow to the Princess’ surprise entry into the election.
But the late-night statement from the Thai Palace leaves little doubt about the King’s displeasure at the move.
“The King and royal family exist in a status above politics.”
The statement didn’t criticise Princess Ubolratana, instead praising her public work, but the wording appeared aimed at the politicians behind her sudden stride into politics.
“Involvement of a high-ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is an act that conflicts with the country’s traditions, customs, and culture, and therefore is considered extremely inappropriate.”
The statement also said that although the princess had relinquished her royal titles, she is still “part of the Chakri dynasty” and thus a royal family member.
Princess Ubolratana’s candidacy brought new life into the build-up to the election, which has long seemed engineered to return Prayut, the ruling junta and its proxies to power.
Her involvement would have provided a royal varnish to the political machinery of Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive billionaire and former PM whose parties have won every election in Thailand since 2001.
Last night’s statement from the Palace has made a clear statement about the position of the Thai Royal Family in the matter and scuttles the ‘back door’ plans of the Thaksin clan and the proxy Thai Raksa Chart Party.
The Election Commission now has a week to review candidates put forward by political parties for the March 24 poll.
The announcement of the Princess’ candidacy by Thai Raksa Chart Party yesterday
PM visits Finnish boy attacked by dogs in Krabi
Thailand PM Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday paid a visit to a five year old Finnish boy who was attacked by stray dogs at Ao Nong beach on Wednesday late afternoon.
Read more about the attack HERE.
The young Finnish boy, savaged by a pack of dogs living on the beach, continues to recover at the Krabi Nakarin International Hospital. Krabi’s Governor visited him at the hospital yesterday to present gifts and meet the boy’s father. The boy is recovering well according to doctors.
Krabi Livestock officials went to Ao Nang Beach to catch the stray dogs that have been bothering some tourists recently, according to reports.
And then yesterday afternoon, during a scheduled visit to Krabi and Samui, the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha also took time out of his schedule to visit the boy at the hospital.
The PM thanked locals and foreign tourists who helped the boy immediately after the attacks and urged people to do not feed stray dogs.
Army chief’s intervention in election campaign backfires
by Jitraporn Sennawong and Nattaphat Phromkaew
The Thai Army chief’s attempt to scare politicians from discussing the Army’s budget and reform by indirectly calling them “enemies of the state” has backfired.
Many Thais have emerged with additional proposals for reforms of the military, and others are protesting the chief’s invocation of the jingoistic military anthem.
Political critics and social media yesterday largely voiced the opinion that the Army, which often intervenes in politics, deserves a budget reduction and reform.
Social activist Veera Somkwamkid wrote on his Facebook page that he agreed with the policy proposal to cut the defence budget.
“It is a source from which high-ranked officers could unlawfully seek benefits.”
“The cut should not affect ordinary military officers because we’re not cutting their salary,” Veera said, adding that the surplus from the cut could be allocated to other areas such as public health and education.
Junta critic and leader of Seree Ruam Thai party Sereepisuth Temeeyaves yesterday said his party also proposed to reduce the size of the Army and would reallocate the funds to improve the quality of people’s life.
“The Army is part of the problem facing the country, especially in the past five years since the coup. If I get a chance to run the country, I will abolish conscription and disband the unnecessary units including their headquarters and the court.”
“We’re not at war. These are not necessary,” he told an election rally in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The criticism follows the Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong instructing politicians to listen to the anthem “Nak Paendin” (“worthless”) if they were planning to reduce the defence budget or nullify conscription.
“Nak Paendin” was part of right-wing Thai propaganda in 1970s aimed at the communist movement in the country.
The lyrics labels leftists as enemies of the state that needed to be eliminated. A favourite of ultra-nationalists, it is viewed by many others as hate-filled and divisive.
Following heavy public criticism concerning both the need for Army reform and the Army’s chief’s aggressive reaction, a military spokesman yesterday came out to defend its controversial budget.
While the public appears sceptical of the relations between the military backed government and the rising defence budget, the spokesman Lt General Kongcheep Tantravanich said the allocation was proportionate.
Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong has not responded to the criticism or commented about the reaction to his comments on Monday.
SOURCE: The Nation
Thai Raksa Chart say Princess was ‘nominated with her consent’
PHOTO: Prasert Thepsri – The Nation
The embattled Thai Raksa Chart Party is defending its nomination of Princess Ubolratana as a prime ministerial candidate saying it was done at the wish and consent of the Princess.
The party is fighting for its existence as the Charter Court mulls a dissolution of the party after a recommendation from the Election Commission.
Thai Raksa Chart Party’s lawyer, Surachai Chinchai, has explained that the nomination was done with innocent intent and the party had no special goals behind it.
“We innocently believed that we could do it. Also, it was done at the wish of the one who was nominated,” he said.
He also insists that the party had not falsely used the Princess’s name, and that Ubolratana had agreed to be named the party’s sole prime ministerial candidate.
The nomination of Ubolratana, the elder sister of His Majesty the King, was submitted to the Election Commission on the morning on Friday, February 8, the final day the Commission would accept nominations for the March 24 election.
But the Princess’ nomination was short-lived as the King issued a decree that members of the Royal Family could not be involved in politics.
Speaking to reporters after submitting their defence documents yesterday, Surachai said: “When the King issued the order on February 8 at 11pm, the party immediately announced the following morning that it was adhering to the order willingly.”
“This showed our loyalty to the King and the monarchy, and also showed that we had no intention of pursuing the nomination.”
Insisting that the nomination had been done innocently and with the Princess’s consent, Surachai also argued that the ban for “opposition to the monarchy” targeted moves to install communism in the country or commit treason.
He said the party did not commit any of these crimes, as Ubolratana had given her consent to the nomination.
“The petition does not just call for the dissolution of the party, but also calls for the banning of party executives from politics for life. This is equivalent to capital punishment in politics,” he said.
Separately, a party source claimed the Princess would not testify in court. As to whether the Constitutional Court will deliver its ruling before the March 24 election, Surachai said he believes voters should first have a chance to vote.
“This will benefit the justice system,” he said.
The EC has been widely criticised for its haste in taking the case to court, with some saying this was a form of discrimination and a move to remove Thai Raksa Chart from the fray. Thai Raksa Chart is a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party, believed to be fielded in the election to help Pheu Thai Party gain party-list MP seats. The creation of separate parties was a result of the new election system that gives big parties only a few seats in the House of Representatives.
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