Thai court accepts dissolution case over princess nomination

Pedestrians walk past an election poster promoting members of the Thai Raksa Chart political party in Bangkok, Thailand, on Feb 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

BANGKOK, Feb 14, 2019, AP. A Thai court said Thursday that it will take up the case of whether to dissolve a political party that nominated a member of the royal family as its candidate for prime minister in next month’s general election, reported Mainichi.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court made the announcement just a day after the Election Commission recommended the Thai Raksa Chart Party be dissolved over its Feb. 8 nomination of Princess Ubolratana Mahidol.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a royal order just hours after his sister’s nomination that deemed the political bid inappropriate and unconstitutional. The then party professed its loyalty to the monarch and accepted his order.

The court said in a statement that the charges are being forwarded to the party, which will have seven days to respond. It scheduled the next hearing for Feb. 27.

Ubolratana’s bid to become prime minister was particularly notable because she allied herself with Thai Raksa Chart, which is part of the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and is loathed by many royalists and others in the country’s traditional establishment, who accuse him of corruption and disrespect to the monarchy.

Ubolratana’s candidacy could have pitted her against the preferred candidate of the pro-royalist military, junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup that overthrew an elected government led by Thaksin’s sister.

The unprecedented nomination and the fallout from its failure have reignited longstanding political tensions in Thailand, which has seen more than a dozen years of political strife that has sometimes spilled into street violence. Following the 2014 coup, the junta used strict laws against protests and political activity to keep the tension from bubbling to the surface.

The March 24 election will be the first since the coup.

Prayuth is considered the front runner, largely because election laws enacted under his government skewed the odds against any party running without the support of the military and the conservative royalist establishment. Under the military-drafted constitution, the junta appoints all of the upper house, which along with the lower house gets to vote for prime minister.

The Constitutional Court is one of the most conservative institutions in Thailand and has consistently ruled against Thaksin and his allies.

If Thai Raksa Chart is dissolved its board members could be banned from politics for 10 years or more.

Dissolving Thai Raksa Chart would almost surely cost the Thaksin side much-needed seats in the election. It would also deepen concerns about the fairness of next month’s poll.

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