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Princess-bid execs may resign

Thai Raksa Chart all at sea as probe looms

A photo posted Sunday by Thai Raksa Chart Party registrar Chayika Wongnapachant, right, shows her with Thai Raksa Chart leader Preechapol Pongpanich (centre) at a temple in Ayutthaya. (FB/Sand.Chayika)

The Thai Raksa Chart Party is mulling whether its executives should resign from their posts to make sure its election strategy remains intact in the wake of their unprecedented nomination of a princess for prime minister.

A source close to the party said Sunday that key figures are considering ways to keep their MP candidates in the race with the party prepared to seek a royal pardon over its selection of Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate for the March 24 election.

According to the source, the party initially considered withdrawing from the contest but that would mean all its candidates would be disqualified and a carefully planned election strategy would be adversely affected.

The party, which is closely affiliated to the former ruling Pheu Thai Party, is fielding 175 candidates in the constituency system where 350 House seats are up for grabs. This is believed to be part of a strategy to capture the constituency votes of candidates who are unsuccessful, whose votes are redistributed and counted towards gaining party-list seats. Thai Raksa Chart is fielding 108 candidates on the party-list system.

The Pheu Thai Party itself is fielding 250 candidates in the constituencies it has the strongest chances of winning.

If the Thai Raksa Chart Party withdraws from the election, the party-list votes from runner-up spots in the 100 constituencies where the Pheu Thai Party is not running will be lost and the party's goal of helping the pro-democracy camp win more than 250 House seats will become a distant dream, the source said.

According to the source, the most likely course of action is the party executives involved in the nomination bid will step down from their posts but maintain their party membership.

Even though the party is likely to face dissolution, the process which will be initiated by the Election Commission will take some time, said the source.

The party posted a message on Sunday to its Facebook thanking its supporters and saying it would stay in the election race.

Meanwhile, a campaign seeking the Thai Raksa Chart Party's dissolution led by activist Srisuwan Janya will ask the EC today to submit the issue to the Constitutional Court.

Mr Srisuwan said that based on His Majesty the King's royal command the party had violated election law prohibiting parties from involving the institution of the monarchy in their campaigns.

EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong said the commission is likely to consider the case today, but declined to say if the party is at risk of being dissolved.

Thai Raksa Chart core member Ruangkrai Leekitwattana played down speculation about the party being dissolved, saying it is not expected and the party has accepted the royal command.

He said the party executives would likely consider taking responsibility by stepping down from their posts. However, another party member Cherdchai Tantisirin said he would rather wait for the EC's ruling on the case before anyone gives up their position.

The EC has until Feb 15 to announce the MP and prime ministerial candidates. Those who are not published are not eligible to run.

Police and the regime denied rumours that several Thai Raksa Chart core members had been detained for "attitude adjustment".

Col Winthai Suvaree, spokesman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said nobody had been detained and he had no idea why the party members could not be contacted. Wim Rungwattanachinda, Thai Raksa Chart deputy secretary-general, also denied reports that some members of the party had been detained.

Thai Raksa Chart leader Preechapol Pongpanich was spotted at a merit-making activity in Ayutthaya with Chayika Wongnapachan, daughter of Yaowaret Shinawatra, who shared their picture in a widely-shared post on her Facebook.

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