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World

AFP
February 12, 2019

Thailand: King's sister officially eliminated from the race for the post of PM

World

AFP
Tue, Feb 12, 2019

The sister of the King of Thailand was officially disqualified on Monday for the post of prime minister, a candidacy that created a political earthquake in the country, fueling rumors of a coup.

The names of the candidates for the post of head of government after the legislative elections of March 24 "have been announced, that of Princess Ubolratana is not listed, because all members of the royal family must be in above politics, "said the Thai Electoral Commission, ending several days of crisis.

The drama was played in three acts.

On Friday, the Thai Raksa Chart, allied with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a pet peeve of the ruling military, announces the candidacy of the princess, eldest sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The news provokes a shock wave in the country where members of the royal family are treated with a quasi-divine status and escape any criticism.

But, a few hours later, the king torpedo the ambitions of his sister, describing this candidacy as "highly inappropriate" in a country where "the monarch and members of the royal family are above politics".

The Thai Raksa Chart quickly announces that it will comply with the wish of the monarch and the electoral commission valid the withdrawal on Monday.

"We continue our campaign, but it is true that the events of recent days have created a lot of confusion in the minds of Thais," said Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democratic Party, questioned by AFP.

"fake news" 

While since the establishment of the constitutional monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had twelve coups, rumors of a new reversal of the regime in place appeared Sunday on social networks, the hashtag #coup ranking among the Top 10 on Twitter in the kingdom.

Prayut Chan-O-Cha, head of the ruling junta since the 2014 coup was forced to react. "This is fake news," he told reporters from government headquarters.

The general, who said Friday officially candidate for the post of Prime Minister, said that checks were ongoing on the origin of these speculations.

According to several observers, he is on track to stay in power, the army having passed in 2016 a Constitution with a Senate now fully appointed by the military.

"The population is not ready to accept a new coup, it has suffered enough like that," said Treerat Sirichantaropas, candidate in one of the constituencies of Bangkok Pheu Thai, the main opposition party.

The fate of the Thai Raksa Chart remained uncertain. The electoral commission could indeed decide that the princess's candidacy was contrary to the Constitution, which would be a first step towards a possible dissolution of this party, one of the pillars of billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra to try to return to the center of the political game.

"Many people were unhappy" about the princess's candidacy "as it aimed to intrude the monarchy into political life," said Srisuwan Janya, secretary general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, calling for the resignation of the responsible for the Thai Raksa Chart.

A possible dissolution of the party, which should in any case not be pronounced for several weeks, could provoke the anger of Thaksin's supporters, who are still very popular in the countryside.

The parliamentary elections of March 24, repeatedly postponed by the junta, aim to establish a democratically elected government. These are the first since 2011.

The political lines have moved in the kingdom since the death of King Bhumibol in 2016 and the accession to the throne of Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The new king last year named a new army chief, Apirat Kongsompong, from a faction rivaling that of Prayut and his junta allies.

It has also reshaped the Thai monarchical institutions, granting itself the appointment of all the members of the committee supervising the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), financial arm of the very rich monarchy.