Thai King confers royal medal on sister for social welfare work

Thailand's newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn has given a royal decoration to his elder sister, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, whose attempt to enter politics he recently thwarted.

In a statement dated May 8 announcing the award of his Royal Cypher Medal (First Class), the monarch said his sister, 68, is "loved and respected" and they have "been through thick and thin together since childhood". "She has been generously carrying out various duties, especially in education, social welfare and public health" and her work has "benefited the youth, the people and the country", he announced.

King Vajiralongkorn, also known as King Rama X, was consecrated in a lavish three-day ceremony that ended on Monday. It is customary for newly crowned monarchs to give their family members royal decorations. On Sunday, the 66-year-old king granted similar medals and new titles to his children and two other sisters.

Princess Ubolratana, who relinquished her royal titles in 1972, was not mentioned during the ceremony.

In February, she stunned the kingdom by attempting to enter politics as a prime minister nominee of the newly formed Thai Raksa Chart Party, a splinter of the former ruling Pheu Thai Party.

Within hours, the monarch issued a statement blocking her move, saying that royals should remain above politics. Her nomination was nullified and the party dissolved by the Constitutional Court.

Princess Ubolratana, who returned to her work developing youth and fighting drug use, wrote on Instagram later: "I'm sorry that my honest intention to work for the country and the Thai people has caused problems that shouldn't have occurred in this era." She also added an English hashtag, #howcomeitisthewayitis.

Earlier this week, the King donated 2.4 billion baht (S$103 million) towards the purchase of medical equipment for 27 public hospitals. The money came from donations made by the public during the funeral for his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, as well as proceeds from a winter fair organised by the palace.

Tan Hui Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2019, with the headline 'Thai King confers royal medal on sister for social welfare work'. Print Edition | Subscribe