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Tensions rise with Thai electoral commission to rule over princess running to PM



BANGKOK (Reuters) – On Monday, Thailand's electoral commission will consider the surprise of nominating a Thai prime ministerial candidate in March election after her brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, called "inappropriate" and constitutional.

FILE PHOTO: Ubolratana Rajaka, Princess of Thailand, participates in "Thailand Hub of Entertainment", a film and entertainment industry event for Hong Kong investors March 24, 2010. Picture taken March 24, 2010. REUTERS / Bobby Yip [19659003] The Commission will also consider a complaint seeking to ban the populist party that stunned the Southeast Asian nation by nominating Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, to the Prime Minister.

The election on March 24 will be the first since a military coup in 2014.

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, but the royal family has great influence and orders millions of Thailand's devotion.

Last week's Ubolratana shock designation of the Thai Raksa Chart party, consisting of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, broke with a long-standing tradition of members of the royal family who lived over the policy.

She gave up her royal titles after marrying an American in the 1970s and starred in soap operas and an action movie.

But in a statement read at all Thai TV stations within a few hours of her candidacy, King Vajiralongkorn said it was "inappropriate" for members of the royal family to enter politics.

The dramatic events of the last three days have set Thais on the edge. Riot police units were on high alert in Pichit province, north of Bangkok, where the princess was to visit later this week, according to the Matichon newspaper.

The hashtag #coup was trending on Thai Twitter on Monday, and a document also circulated online claiming that the junta had beaten commanders in the army, navy, and air force.

The government's assistant spokeswoman, Colonel Taksada Sangkhachan, said the document was false and the government had filed a report with the police.

SEMI-DIVINE

The election commission has until Friday to rule over Ubolratana's candidacy. Its members are unlikely to disregard the king's wishes while a constitutional monarch is considered semi-divine in Thai society.

On Sunday, a pro-royal activist said he would make a claim to disqualify the Thai Raksa Chart party.

"The royal announcement made it clear that the party violated the electoral law," said Srisuwan Janya, Secretary General of the Federal Crime Association, to Reuters.

Thai Raksa Charts chief executive Chaturon Chaisaeng refused to comment on the request to cancel the party on Sunday. The party said in a statement that it would "go further into the electoral arena to solve problems for the country".

The electoral law prohibits parties from using the monarchy in campaigns.

Thai Raksa Chart is one of several pro-Thaksin parties that contest the election.

The Junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, also runs to the prime minister as a candidate for a pro-military party. Prayuth was the Thai army chief in 2014 and led the coup, which excluded a government led by Thaksin's sister.

The parties loyal to Thaksin, a former telecommunication tycoon, have defeated prostitutes to win every election since 2001. Each of their governments has been removed by judgments or coups since 2006.

Gambit to designate a member of the royal family could recover on the Thai Raksa Chart, said Titipol Phakdeewanich, Dean of the Political Faculty at Ubon Ratchathani University.

Application form for prime candidate, Thailand's princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, is seen at the electoral office in Bangkok, Thailand on February 8, 2019. REUTERS / Athit Perawongmetha

"Things are now more unpredictable," Titipol told Reuters.

The dissolution of the party could give more seats to the affiliates in anti-Thaksin, he said, although there are other parties who are loyal to the former prizes that contest the election.

Thaksin, abducted in 2006, lives in self-imposed exile after being convicted in absentia by a Thai court on corruption charges he refuses.

Further reporting of Patpicha Tanaka tempat; Editing by Neil Fullick and Paul Tait

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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