Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Thursday dissolved the political party that unsuccessfully
nominated the king’s elder sister as its prime ministerial candidate for elections later this month.
Nearly 300 candidates for the opposition Thai Raksa Chart Party are banned from contesting the polls, the court ruled.
Executive members of the party have been barred from politics for 10 years.
The decisions were meant to prevent damage to the monarchy, which as a long-standing tradition has not been involved directly in
politics and by law cannot be criticised.
In early February, the party made an unprecedented move by putting forward 67-year-old Princess Ubolratana, King Maha
Vajiralongkorn’s sister, as its candidate for prime minister.
This make her the first immediate member of the Thai royal family to try to contest an election.
Her bid, believed by analysts to be the only one, who could have upstaged junta leader Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha,
was quickly quashed when the king issued a decree calling her involvement in politics “unconstitutional and highly inappropriate.”
Although the royal decree is not legally binding, the country’s Election Commission complied with the king’s command, disqualifying
the princess’ bid and then seeking the party dissolution in court.
“I and the party executives are deeply sorry about the decision. Rights and liberty are supposed to be the fundamental political principles,”
Party Leader, Preechapol Pongpanich, said.
“We only have pure intentions … We are loyal to all the royal family members,” he added.
The court order to dissolve the party came two and a half weeks before the country’s first election since the 2014 coup.
Thai Raksa Chart is one of the proxies founded by allies of former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who in spite court cases against
him and his absence in Thailand for over a decade, remains popular in the country.
“I feel so sad. The party did nothing wrong,” said a 51-year-old woman, who travelled 580 kilometres from the north-eastern province
of Udon Thani to the court to support her favourite party.
“I will vote for Pheu Thai [Party] instead,” the woman added while sobbing, referring to another Shinawatra-affiliated party.
Her resort to a similar party is also in line with analyst expectations.
“The ruling] will not fundamentally change the election results,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a Political Science Lecturer at
Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
“Supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra can vote for other pro-Thaksin parties,” he said. “I don’t see the pro-military party gaining