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In stunning move, Thai king's sister running for PM in March polls

In stunning move, Thai king's sister running for PM in March polls

Traditionally the Thai royal family stays out of politics, so this is an unprecedented move.

Her selection to lead the government after the March 24 general election also pits her against the preferred candidate of the military, which is considered one of Thailand's most royalist institutions.

He said Thai Raksa Chart might use the name of the princess for election campaigning.

The surprise entry of the princess into politics - assumed to be with her brother, current King Maha Vajiralongkorn's blessing - raises questions about whether the long-lasting partnership of the palace with the army is in jeopardy.

Analysts said she is not technically covered by the kingdom´s royal defamation law - which carries heavy jail sentences - but that given the wide interpretation of the rules, she is unlikely to face the scrutiny given to most politicians.

The election, despite the smokescreen of "national conciliation" is still seen as a battle between Thaksin's populists (the Red Shirts) and allies of the royalist-military establishment (the Yellow Shirts).

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932 but the royal family has wielded great influence and commands the devotion of millions.

"The party has nominated the princess as its sole candidate", Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters at the Election Commission.

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The 67-year-old surrendered royal titles when she married an American in the 1970s, though she remains revered by many as a tul kramom, an honorific roughly equivalent to princess.

In a day of high drama, Prayut declared his candidacy for premier, running for the Phalang Pracharat army party, moments after the princess´s announcement.

Princess Ubolratana is the elder sister of the current king. I'd like to say I want to see all of us have the opportunity to build happiness in our country.

The Princess' candidacy would only become official after the EC verifies her eligibility to stand for PM, Preechaphol said.

Thailand's recent political history has been incredibly turbulent as the conflict between Bangkok-centre elites and the populists has resulted in protests, military coups and violent clashes over the last 15 years. She studied mathematics and bio-chemistry at MIT and earned a master's degree in public health from the University of California at Los Angeles. She and Jensen had three children, Ploypailin Mahidol Jensen, Bhumi Jensen - her son who died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at the age of 21 - and Sirikitiya Mai Jensen.

Following her divorce, she returned to Thailand and has once again begun to participate in royal life although she never took up her full royal title.

Beyond her royal appearances at charities and events, Princess Ubolratana is an avid social media user who has close to 100,000 followers on her personal Instagram page.