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Thai princess to contest election as prime ministerial candidate

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Princess Ubolratana Barnavadi has broken the long-standing tradition of Thai royalty staying out of politics by entering the election in an unprecedented move.

A Thai princess will run for prime minister in March elections in an unprecedented entry by a royal into frontline politics, pitting her against the chief of the ruling junta and redrawing the nation’s political landscape.

Princess Ubolratana, 67, the older sister of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, was announced as a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart party steered by the divisive Shinawatra political clan.

The Thai monarchy, a revered institution shielded from criticism by a tough defamation law, has traditionally been seen as above the political fray, although royals have intervened in moments of political crisis.

Ubolratana’s nomination has electrified the buildup to a March 24 election which had seemed poised to return the junta and its proxies to power in some form.

Her involvement gives a royal sheen to Thaksin Shinawatra’s political machine, which has won every election since 2001.

And it also potentially builds a bridge between Thaksin’s “Red” shirted supporters and the “Yellow” shirts who are arch royalists. Deadly violence and disruption linked to the two groups has defined Thailand’s turbulent last decade.

“Thank you for all the love and encouragement,” the princess, who gave up her royal titles to marry a foreigner, said in a typically colourful Instagram post on Friday afternoon.

“I want to clarify that I have relinquished the rank of nobility and am living as a commoner … I allowed Thai Raksa Chart Party to use my name for the nomination to the prime minister’s post.”

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