A right royal confusion
- 10 Feb 2019 at 04:30
- WRITER: ALAN DAWSON
So a petite, 67-year-old woman stood against the tanks and the many-starred green shirts of the Royal Thai Army, and she whipped them. Public opinion agreed on that, and public opinion is how the nation's going to settle it on March 24.
Twelve hours later, His Majesty the King told elder sister Princess Ubolratana -- and the country -- that she should stand down. And her own party turned her victory into defeat.
Princess Ubolratana ('nichax') made several enthusiastic posts to Instagram after she was officially nominated (right) as the candidate for prime minister by the spinoff Thai Raksa Chart Party on Friday.
This is known as a double-blockbuster day, and no one can remember the last one. No one can remember a princess leaping into the political ring, because it's never happened. And no one can recall a starker Thai example of rule-of-law vs tradition, because there never has been one.
First, legality. "She is a commoner," declared trained experts of iLaw. "I want to exercise my rights and freedom as a commoner under the constitution," wrote Princess Ubolratana, aka "nichax", on the Instagram account she has long used (4,100-plus posts) to communicate with the public. "My decision [to register as Thai Raksa Chart's candidate for prime minister demonstrates my freedom and rights, with no privileges over other people."
Then, tradition. Here's the nut graf. "The king and royal family exist in a status above politics. Bringing a high-ranking member of the royal family to politics, in whatever manner, is an act in violation of the royal tradition and national culture and highly inappropriate."
That is the core sentence of the royal announcement from the Royal Gazette, rushed to publication 12 hours after the Friday morning registration gaggle at the Election Commission.
Livening things up: Nomination of Princess Ubolratana as prime ministerial candidate has transformed what could have been a dull campaign.
Both of these stances are correct, free of error, righteous. Politics is strictly for commoners. That is to keep royalty above the fray, where the people's respect resides.
Equally, however, while both are true, only one can prevail. And as often the case, it was royalty.
It wasn't the princess who caved. Princess Ubolratana had defied and ignored convention before, and more than once. On Friday, she did that again, and the Thai Raksa Chart Party committed suicide in order to take her out of politics and bend to tradition.
Four days ago, there was no issue. No one ever had raised the possibility it ever would be an issue.
Presenting Princess Ubolratana on Friday morning as the TRC's sole candidate for prime minister, was the most unlikely plan that ever has evolved so flawlessly and emerged so unexpectedly in Thai politics. It couldn't have been better if it had been carefully plotted in one of those townhouses in a luxurious section of London, or a villa in mysterious Dubai.
This was a plan... What's that? Oh. Are you sure? In London? And in Dubai, you say. Really? All right then, never mind.
Just kidding. Not since the last century when he formed Thai Rak Thai has the presence of Lord Voldemort na Dubai been so obvious as it was with the formation of breakaway Thai Raksa Chart from Pheu Thai. And not ever has the partnership of Voldemort and the fellow felonious female family fugitive been more evident.
A pertinent tweet, sent Saturday night by a familiar Twitter poster:
Chin up and keep moving forward! We learn from past experiences but live for today and the future. Cheer up! Life must go on!— Thaksin Shinawatra (@ThaksinLive) February 9, 2019
In five days (or less), the Election Commission will drive a stake through the heart of TRC. What is unknown about unravelling the princess' attempted political entry is whether it will once and for all end the ninth life of the man nicknamed miao*.
This week will present a chance for the EC to show guts and proof of its claim that "we have to follow the law". It can pretty easily state that Thai Raksa Chart is being influenced in a major way by personalities living abroad -- and expose what Voldemort has wrought.
As of press time no bookie would take that bet. There seem two chances the EC will be fearless on Friday: A fat chance or a slim chance.
Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi turned a cranky and even surly election campaign into arguably the most interesting, certainly the most unusual and quite possibly the most defining moment in the long and faltering campaign to bring democracy to the nation.
* A previous version of this column referred incorrectly to the nickname of the man of Dubai. [h/t 'Tino']