Thai party to carry on with campaign despite threat of dissolution after princess nomination bid thwarted

Campaigning is in full swing in Bangkok, which has been plastered with electoral posters, including one for a Thai Raksa Chart candidate (right). Its leader Preechapol Pongpanit said he was not concerned that his party may be dissolved for flouting e
Campaigning is in full swing in Bangkok, which has been plastered with electoral posters, including one for a Thai Raksa Chart candidate (right). Its leader Preechapol Pongpanit said he was not concerned that his party may be dissolved for flouting election rules, and that it had followed all rules and regulations.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Thai Raksa Chart pledges to stay in election race after thwarted bid to nominate Princess

The Thai political party that was thwarted in its bid to nominate a princess for the post of prime minister put on a brave face yesterday under threat of dissolution, pledging to carry on with its campaign for the March 24 election.

"We as a political party have made a commitment to the people and our members to take part in this election," Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanit said yesterday at the party headquarters. "We are sincere in our wish to see the country move forward."

He said he was not concerned with the possibility that his party may be dissolved for flouting election rules.

"We have followed all rules and regulations," he told Thai media. "Now, we are running our campaigns and getting ready for the election. Whatever decision made will be heeded by us."

He sidestepped reporters' questions on whether the party's executives will resign.

"We have good intentions," he said. "We will humbly abide by the royal order."

Thai Raksa Chart stunned the country last Friday when it nominated Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya - the elder sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn - for the post of prime minister. New election rules imposed after the 2014 coup require political parties to publicise the names of individuals they intend to propose as prime minister before the election.

 
 
 
 

But the monarch intervened late that same day, saying in a statement that Princess Ubolratana "has been maintaining her status as a member of the Chakri royal family" despite relinquishing her status in 1972.

"Any attempt to involve a high-level member of the royal family in the political process, by whatever means, would be tantamount to breaching time-honoured royal traditions, customs and national culture," the statement added. "Such action must be deemed a transgression and most inappropriate."

On Monday, political activist Srisuwan Janya submitted a petition to the Election Commission to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart party.

The commission also disqualified Princess Ubolratana from the election, citing the king's order. It released instead a list of 69 prime ministerial candidates that had been nominated by 45 political parties taking part in the election.

Commissioners met yesterday but did not conclude on what action they would take with regard to Thai Raksa Chart.

Like the Pheu Thai Party - which won the 2011 election but was ousted by a coup in 2014 - Thai Raksa Chart is linked to fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The tycoon's Thai Rak Thai party won the 2001 election, only to be thrown out by a coup in 2006. The party was subsequently disbanded for electoral fraud and its key members banned from politics for five years.

Former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, who used to be a Thai Rak Thai member and is now executive chairman of Thai Raksa Chart, tweeted yesterday: "The phrase 'ticks jumping off dying dog' is circulating now… I don't think Thai Raksa Chart will be dissolved, but if it will, I will be the last one here, like when I was with Thai Rak Thai. (I am the) tick that doesn't jump."

Meanwhile, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission yesterday suspended a Thaksin-linked television station for 15 days, saying that it spread misinformation that could heighten social divisions. The station - Voice TV - is owned by Thaksin's children.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2019, with the headline 'Thai party to carry on with campaign despite threat of dissolution'. Print Edition | Subscribe