The elder sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been declared the prime ministerial candidate for a party loyal to deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a March 24 general election, the party said on Friday.
Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, 67, will stand for a party loyal to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, according to registration papers.
While the monarchy has continued to retain significance influence in Thailand, the country has never seen a royal enter the political fray like this since the country moved away from absolute monarchy in 1932.
A Thai political party on Friday named a princess as its nominee to be the next prime minister, upending tradition that the royal palace plays no public role in politics and upsetting all predictions about what may happen in next month's election.
In a late night statement he chastised Ubolratana, describing her move as "inappropriate" and against the constitution and royal norms.
But his order stressed that Thailand's constitution insists that the king and those around him stay above politics, and the principles of democratic government also put politics off-limits.
"All royal family members adhere to the same principles. and can not take any political office, because it contradicts the intention of the Constitution".
On Friday morning, it was confirmation of Ubolratana's unprecedented candidacy that was the stunner, as the development grabbed headlines and saw footage of the 67-year-old, in recent times an actress, aired repeatedly on global news channels. The shock announcement on Friday that a senior royal is running for prime minister has electrified Thai politics.
"This is a profound development that will shape the contours and dynamics of Thai politics before and after the election".
Ubolratana relinquished her royal title in 1972, when she married American Peter Jensen; the two had met as students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They settled in the United States where they had three children.
"I have accepted the Thai Raksa Chart Party nomination for prime minister to show my rights and freedom without any privileges above other fellow Thai citizens under the constitution", she said.
The conflict between the Bangkok-centered, royalist elites and Thaksin and his more rural-based supporters has resulted in street protests, military coups, and violent clashes over nearly 15 years. "If this turns out well, it will be a process of reconciliation and unity".More news: Grizzlies, Hornets Working Towards Marc Gasol Trade
It also potentially bridges the political divide between the "Red" shirted loyalists to Thaksin and the "Yellow" shirted royalist supporters, whose violent clashes have scarred Thailand's recent history.
Could Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya be Thailand's next leader?The army staged coups against Thaksin in 2006, and against a government that his sister had led in 2014.
The issue, the People's Reform Party says, is that Thai law bans political candidates from using the monarchy to bolster their campaigns. Ubolratana falls into a gray area, since she no longer has her highest titles but is still regarded as a princess.
One of her main opponents will be the leader of Thailand's military junta, Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who has been in power since a military coup in 2014.
"I am not aiming to extend my power but I am doing this for the benefit of the country and the people", he said.
Ubolratana was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, while her father was attending college there.
1975: She received a master's degree in public health at the University of California, Los Angeles. More visits followed, and by 2001, she had moved back to Thailand and was regaining a sense of a normal, if privileged, life.
Her son was killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
Commentators who on Friday assumed Ubolratana's bid had the blessing of her brother - the siblings are believed to be close - were at a loss for words following the king's rebuke.
Ubolratana made her first trip back to her homeland in 1980 for one of her mother's birthdays.
"In light of this, for the sake of protecting and safeguarding the monarchy, it is necessary to make clear that the princess is distancing herself from the royal institution completely", Mr Kaewsan said.