King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand has barred his sister, Princess Ubolratana, from putting up a bid to run as the country’s Prime Minister.
The announcement effectively blocks Ubolratana’s unprecedented bid for the premiership and comes after an extraordinary rebuke of the candidacy by her younger brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, announced the princess as its candidate on Friday morning.
The move looked to rattle the status quo and threaten the ambitions of the junta that has ruled Thailand since it toppled the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra in a 2014 coup.
But the Thai king thwarted the bid in a sharply worded statement, adding that bringing senior royal family members into politics is against tradition, national culture and “highly inappropriate.”
Thai Raksa Chart responded swiftly, cancelling a campaign event on Saturday and issuing a statement saying it would respect “tradition and royal customs.”
“Thai Raksa Chart party complies with the royal command”, it said.
Thailand has some of the most severe lese majeste laws in the world and the king’s word is considered final.
Royalist Thais and celebrities praised the intervention on social media after the order, writing “long live the king”.
Analysts believe the events that unfolded over the past day will help the junta consolidate power and tilt the odds in favour of coup leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.
Prayut is standing as the candidate of the Phalang Pracharat party, a group aligned with the regime.
The election on March 24 is the first since the 2014 coup.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and has not had a royal run for frontline office since 1932.
Princess Ubolratana, 67, did not address the royal cancellation when she thanked supporters on Saturday on her widely followed Instagram account, saying vaguely that she wanted Thailand to “move forward”.
The king did not criticise the princess directly and seemed to focus blame on political party members who brought her on board.
Ubolratana gave up her royal titles when she married an American decades ago, but they divorced and she moved back to Thailand.
The first-born of the former king is an unusually public figure for a royal, having starred in movies and dished out advice to nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram.