His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn has issued an order stating that no member of the royal family should be involved in politics, quashing a bid by his older sister to run for prime minister in next month's elections.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was army chief when he led the 2014 coup and now heads the ruling junta, also announced his candidacy on Friday.
Thai Raksa Chart party selected Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, the princess as its nominee to serve as the next prime minister, upending tradition that the royal palace plays no public role in politics and upsetting all predictions about what may happen in the March election.
Thai Raksa Chart was created previous year as part of a strategy to diversify the clan's political assets in case its main vehicle, the Puea Thai party, was dissolved by the junta that deposed the government Yingluck helmed from 2011 to 2014.
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn has called his elder sister's bid to run for prime minister in March "inappropriate" and unconstitutional, likely sinking her candidacy for a populist opposition party. Though Ubolratana does not have any royal titles and is not covered under lese majeste laws as of now - she relinquished her royal status back in 1972 - it is hard to imagine that her status would not affect how polls would be conducted.
"The king and royal family exist in a status above politics", said the statement, published in the Royal Gazette and given blanket television coverage. "In the event Thaksin-aligned parties win the election, it makes it very hard for the military and royalists to contest, protest, or seek to overturn the result".
On Friday, one of the parties supporting Prayut had filed a petition opposing Ubolratana's candidacy, arguing it could breach a law that prohibits the use of the monarchy in campaigning.
The coup Prayuth led unseated a Pheu Thai Party-led administration headed by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister.
According to some analysts, royal family members of her "rank" are not barred from politics but have opted to stay neutral in the past, a long-standing protocol in most modern constitutional monarchies.
Thai Raksa Chart's statement said the party loyally accepted the king's order and expressed deep gratitude to Princess Ubolratana for her kindness toward the party.
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The kingdom's political schism is broadly between the Shinawatra-aligned rural poor and the Bangkok-based elite, and has resulted in rounds of deadly street protests and two coups since 2006.
Princess Ubolratana relinquished her royal titles in 1972 when she married an American, a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Peter Jensen.
Since ascending the throne in 2016 King Maha Vajiralongkorn has reorganized palace affairs.
"Just a theory: Thaksin creates Thai Raksa Chart to mitigate the risk of Puea Thai being dissolved".
"I believe there will be no legal problems in terms of her qualification but we have to wait for the Election Commission to endorse her candidacy".
1975: She receives a master's degree in public health at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Now, Ubolratana threatens to redraw lines of allegiance in Thai society, as a member of the monarchy who is running against the leader of the pro-royalist military.
Thailand's current prime minister is Prayuth Chan-o-cha.
"The party has nominated the princess as its sole candidate", Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters at the Election Commission. She returned to Thailand in the late 1990s after getting a divorce.
Thailand has among the world's toughest lese-majeste laws, which make it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir apparent or regent.
She is also well known and loved in Thailand as a keen singer and actor, appearing in several films, and is active on social media, where posts of her singing and dancing have gone viral on her Instagram page.