(Associated Press) On Friday, Princess Ubol Rattana of Thailand agreed to run for prime minister on behalf of the Thai Raksa Chat Party (TRC), a party aligned with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in the upcoming March elections.
Thaksin’s opponents include the military, opposition political parties, and various social movements.
Thailand’s ruling military junta and its leader, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, ousted Thaksin’s government in a 2014 coup, which they justified as necessary to defend the monarchy and restore political order.
Scenario 1: The king was in the dark Under the first scenario, Princess Ubol Rattana and her backers decided to accept the nomination without consulting the king.
When the king learned of the nomination he moved to quash it, either to support Prayuth or simply to keep the monarchy out of the political fray.
Scenario 2: The princess defied the king It is possible that the king was consulted about the nomination and opposed it, but Princess Ubol Rattana and TRC chose to proceed anyway.
Seen in this light the king’s response was an attempt to pull the monarchy back from the political fray and not an explicit endorsement of any other candidate or party.
If that’s the case, expect significant turmoil ahead, anything from a shake-up of the country’s top political and military leadership to a counter-coup, depending on what parts of the royal establishment or military the princess has support from.
Alternatively, the king may actually prefer an alliance with Thaksin and his parties, and wish to cut loose from Prayuth and the military — and saw the nomination as a chance to assert the palace’s autonomy.
[Why it’s so hard for the U.S. to have a coherent China policy] Scenario 4: The king and princess were working together Finally, we must consider the possibility that this all occurred with the king’s blessing, with the king and princess acting in concert.
In this scenario, the nomination, however short-lived, was the monarchy’s signal that it preferred a political future that does not include Prayuth and may include a role for Thaksin and his allies.
The king’s rapid denouncement of the nomination goes some way toward reassuring the military, but at least some members of the junta are probably reevaluating the benefits of their partnership with the palace.
Discerning the motivations and machinations of Thailand’s political elite is never easy, but how the key players — the king, princess, Prayuth and Thaksin — react in the coming days will give us additional clues as to which scenario is more plausible.
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