Thailand is reeling under a rare kind of tension after the nation's King Vajiralongkorn moved to block his sister's candidacy for prime minister labelling it "gravely inappropriate" and unconstitutional. The country goes to polls on March 24.
The king's elder sister Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi announced her candidacy on Friday, February 8, and said that she was the only one running for the party that sides with ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Barnavadi, a movie star, has a huge fan following in the nation and she took to Instagram to thank her followers for their love and support.
Speaking of her candidacy, the 67-year-old said that she wanted to see the nation move forward and help her countrymen in achieving this goal. Hours later, she also spoke about how she was a commoner in Thailand as she had relinquished her title and wanted to help the common people of the country, reported Bloomberg.
Barnavadi lived in the United States for over 25 years and gave up her royal titles in 1972, when she tied the knot with Peter Jensen, an American.
However, not everyone is pleased and in a statement issued by the palace, the king said that princess running for the post would "defy the nation's culture, customs and traditions." The king also spoke of a clause in the constitution, which specifies that the monarchs and the royal family of Thailand must not be a part of politics and maintain a neutral stance.
Involvement of a high-ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is an act that conflicts with the country's traditions, customs, and culture, and therefore considered highly inappropriate," the king said in a statement. "Even though she has relinquished her royal titles in writing, she maintained her status and carried herself as a member of the Chakri dynasty."
It now looks like the king's intervention would lead to the election commission disqualifying Barnavadi.
This latest tension in Thailand has caught the world's attention and many wonder how the conflict will play out over the next few days. Speaking of this turmoil, Kevin Hewison, an emeritus professor at the University of North Carolina who has studied and written about Thai politics for years, said that this will have implications, but it will not be out in the open.
We are in new territory," Hewison told Bloomberg. "These events are probably not over. There will be fallout. But, because the royal family is usually secretive, we may not hear as much as we'd want."
Meanwhile, current prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha also announced that he would be running for the post.