Thai court dissolves party over Princess’ PM bid

Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the dissolution of an opposition party that nominated the Kings elder sister as its prime-ministerial candidate for the March 24 general election.

The nine-judge panel unanimously ordered the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart party and banned, with six votes in favour and three against, the members of the party’s executive committee from taking part in politics for 10 years.

More than 1,000 police officers were deployed in the vicinity of the court in the Thai capital, where supporters of the party gathered, Efe news reported.

Thai Raksa Chart announced Princess Ubolratana Mahidol’s candidacy on February 8, but hours later her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a royal communique in a national television broadcast calling his sister’s nomination “highly inappropriate”, effectively ending her candidacy.

Members of Thailand’s highly revered royal family have traditionally refrained from participating in politics.

Ubolratana had agreed to run for Prime Minister as she had relinquished her royal titles in 1972 at the time of her marriage to an American. But following her divorce in 1998, she returned permanently to Thailand and has since been treated as a de facto member of the royal family.

Following the King’s public announcement, the Election Commission rejected her candidacy and filed a petition with the Constitutional Court to dissolve the party.

Thai Raksa Chart is linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown by a coup in 2006, and his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, who suffered the same fate eight years later. Both currently live in self-imposed exile.

The upcoming election is the first to be held in the country since a military coup overthrew Yingluck’s government in 2014.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha – who led the coup – will run as a candidate for the Palang Pracharat Party, viewed by analysts as the successor to the military junta.

For more than a decade, Thailand has been embroiled in a political crisis that has seen the nation caught in a cycle of democratically elected governments, anti-government protests and military rule.