Money & Power

A Thai Princess Is Breaking From Tradition to Run as the Country's Prime Minister

The surprise bid pits Princess Ubolratana Mahidol against a military leader who ousted the previous prime minister.
IMAGE GOVERNMENT OF THAILAND/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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The race for Thai prime minister just got hotter.

Princess Ubolratana Mahidol, King Rama Maha Vajiralongkorn’s elder sister, is a surprise addition to the roster. Members of the Thai royal family typically stay out of politics, so the princess is making history by filing for candidacy. She is backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who still maintains influence in the country’s political sphere despite being in self-exile.

“This has never happened before in Thai politics; the royal family has always been seen as being above politics even though everyone knows that it’s the most powerful body in Thailand, reports Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay.

Once an Ex-Princess and Actress

The 67-year-old princess is the eldest child of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Her life as a royal was not all smooth. She gave up her title in 1972 to marry American Peter Ladd Jensen, whom she met while earning her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They were married for 26 years and have three children together before they divorced in 1998. She made a permanent return to Thailand in 2001, and once again resumed her duties in royal court. Upon her return, she was given the title of “Tunkramom Ying” or “princess.”

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In 2008 and 2010 respectively, she starred in local films Where the Miracle Happens and My Best Bodyguard.

The princess is also no stranger to public service. She has been a staunch advocate for anti-drug campaigns and alleviating poverty, among others. She also sits on the chair of four non-profit foundations backing these causes.

Her political affiliation is the Thai Raksa Chart, whose party leader Preechapol Pongpanich has endorsed the princess saying she was “knowledgeable and is highly suitable.” 

Her younger brother's coronation will reportedly be held from May 4 to 6 this year.

Strong Competition

Also gunning for the position is current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a military coup in 2014 that led to the ousting of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s younger sister. He assumed power after her ousting and announced on February 8, 2019, that he would be running for prime minister. 

Meanwhile, Paiboon Nititawan, leader of pro-military group People’s Reform Party, called upon the Election Commission to review Princess Ubolratana’s bid, stating that the law does not allow a political party to use the royal family for campaigns, Reuters reports.

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Thailand’s election commission has yet to release its endorsement of the candidacy applications.

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Senior Staff Writer
Hannah is a communications graduate from Ateneo de Manila University. She’s originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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