Princess, Not Politics

February 15, 2019
The Public Relations Department (กรมประชาสัมพันธ์) [CC BY 3.0 th (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/th/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
There’s no crossing the line in Thailand, and the King of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn, made sure of that when his older sister, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, announced that she would be running for Prime Minister of Thailand earlier this month. Whoa! Sounds like a royal sibling spat, right? Well, it might sound like it, but it’s not.

The separation of the monarchy and the state is a long understood tradition that dates back to 1932 when Thailand moved from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. According to King Vajiralongkorn, “To involve a high-level member of the royal family in politics, directly or indirectly, is against royal traditions, norms, and the national culture … it is deemed extremely inappropriate.” While some might argue that Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya gave up her royal title in 1972 when she married an American and is therefore a commoner, the King of Thailand still considers her a part of the royal family. You see, after her divorce, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya returned to Thailand in 2001 and continued to be an active member of the royal family.

Government of Thailand [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Now, you’d think that the King’s words should have no power over who runs for government positions (remember the whole separation of monarchy and state thing?), but it’s a little different in Thailand. While the powers of the monarchy and that of the state are separate, the royal family is deeply loved and respected by the people of Thailand. In fact, they are so loved that criticizing or insulting the monarchy is not only frowned upon, but may even result in as much as a fifteen-year prison sentence! Therefore, out of respect for the King, the Thai Save the Nation Party (or TSN) withdrew Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya’s candidacy for the position of Prime Minister of Thailand.

Why do you think some countries separate the monarchy from the elected government?