Thai Princess Ubolratana, who this morning shook up the election landscape with her shock candidacy for prime minister, has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the more free-spirited members of Thailand’s revered royal family.
The first royal to directly involve themselves in Thai politics since the 1932 Siamese Revolution that established Thailand’s constitutional monarchy, Princess Ubolratana has publicly embraced her celebrity, maintaining a popular Instagram account and even trying her hand at acting in a number of Thai movies and TV dramas.
In 1972, she earned headlines when she relinquished the royal titles HRH and Princess Chao Fa to marry an American she met during her studies at MIT. They later divorced and she returned to Thailand in 2001. She still retains the title of Tunkramom Ying, which means “Daughter to the Queen Regent.”
In a statement today, the Thai Raksa Chart Party she will represent on March 24, praised her time in the US, saying she “led a commoner’s life by working to pay for her tuition.”
Princess Ubolratana is also widely known in Thailand for her “To Be Number One” anti-drug campaign aimed at educational institutions across the kingdom, which saw her cut a single in support of the program (yes, she sings, t0o).
Unsurprisingly, reaction to this morning’s shock announcement has set local social media on fire, with #ThaiRaksaChart — the name of the new political party tied to ousted former PM Thaksin Shinawatra — quickly becoming the second-hottest trending topic on Twitter.
— 🌻 nk (@fffonnq) February 8, 2019
— Mecobalamun (@mecobalamun) February 8, 2019
Amid the disbelief, many netizens are expressing glee about the news, expressing belief that the princess’s candidacy could prove a fatal blow to the ruling junta’s grip on power.
— BadSuperRobot (@BadSuperRobot) February 7, 2019
Netizens just can’t get enough of Game of Thrones apparently.
— ปุณณ์เต (@copine_cop) February 8, 2019
— ❤vita😙 นารีไล่บี้เฮีย (@viskyone) February 8, 2019
“For those who said [Princess Ubonratana] is not being democratic. Hello! She’s actually running– not just seizing power like our current leaders” writes a netizen.
An unofficial poll created about an hour ago by Facebook user Tanawat Wongchai has already received 52,000 votes, with the majority of netizens giving the nod to Ubolratana over sitting Prime Minister Prayutch Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Thai junta chief who seized power in the 2014 coup, who was also nominated as a candidate for PM this morning by Phalang Pracharat party.
Thus far, it appears that political leaders have avoided commenting on the development. When cornered by reporters this morning, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam refused to comment on the matter, reported Morning News.
Correction: Due to a typing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the princess returned to Thailand in 2011. The princess returned in 2001.