Thai election body moves to dissolve Thai Raksa Chart party which nominated princess for PM

Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich (centre) shows a document nominating Princess Ubolratana Mahidol as candidate for prime minister during election registration at the Election Commission in Bangkok, Thailand on Feb 8, 2019.
Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich (centre) shows a document nominating Princess Ubolratana Mahidol as candidate for prime minister during election registration at the Election Commission in Bangkok, Thailand on Feb 8, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (AFP, REUTERS, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday (Feb 13) asked the constitutional court to dissolve a political party that put forward a princess as candidate for prime minister, days after the move earned a royal rebuke from her brother, the king.  

The court said it would decide on Thursday whether or not to accept the case. 

Thailand has been mired in political drama since last Friday, when Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya’s name was submitted by Thai Raksa Chart, a party allied with the powerful Shinawatra clan.

Princess Ubolratana’s unprecedented bid to enter frontline politics unravelled within hours, after King Maha Vajiralongkorn decried the entry of a royal into the political fray as “highly inappropriate”.

Thailand’s monarchy is seen as above politics, although royals have intervened in public during times of political crisis. 

The princess was disqualified as a candidate by the EC, which then filed a request with the constitutional court to have Thai Raksa Chart disbanded for bringing a royal family member into politics.

“That action is considered hostile to the constitutional monarchy,” it said. 

The monarchy in Thailand is considered sacred and revered by its people, and is under the protection of draconian lese majeste laws. The king’s word is considered final. 

The scuttling of her candidacy and potential moves to dissolve Thai Raksa Chart is a blow to the political machine of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra ahead of the general election on March 24, the first since a 2014 military coup.

The party was set to add to the vote bank of the bigger Shinawatra electoral vehicle, Pheu Thai, in an election where secondary parties are targeting seats via the party list system. 

Parties overseen by Thaksin have won all elections since 2001. Thaksin and his sister Yingluck – who was overthrown in the 2014 coup – live abroad to avoid convictions they say are politically motivated. 

 
 

‘I’m sorry’

The Thai Raksa Charty Party had earlier requested "fair treatment" from the EC on whether the party should be disbanded.

The party will file a protest with the EC on Wednesday, asking for its explanation to be heard, the party's chief legal adviser, Mr Pichit Chuenban, said on Tuesday.

Mr Pichit said that although the EC is empowered by law to seek Constitutional Court verdicts on alleged wrongdoings involving political parties, it could not do so without gathering sufficient evidence from the accused party. He cited the Political Parties Act and the Constitution.

"Evidence gathering should not be done in a one-sided way. The international standard must be followed to ensure fairness to all," the legal expert said.

In an Instagram post late on Tuesday, the 67-year-old princess apologised for her role in the drama, which has sent jitters across the politically febrile country just weeks before elections. 

“I’m sorry that my genuine intention to help work for the country and fellow Thai people has created a problem that shouldn’t happen in this era,” she wrote. It was tagged with a hashtag: “#howcomeitsthewayitis”. 

Princess Ubolratana is the first-born of late king Bhumibol Adulyadej, but she gave up her royal titles when she married an American in 1972. After her divorce, she moved back to Thailand where she is regarded by the Thai public as a part of the royal family. 

Although she said she was exercising her rights as a commoner to stand for premier, the palace statement last week said she is “still a member of the House of Chakri”, referring to the name of the dynasty. 

Junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha, who toppled Yingluck’s government, is running for prime minister in the March 24 poll.  Analysts say the blocking of the princess’ candidacy could benefit Mr Prayut, who has portrayed himself as a defender of the monarchy.