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Tuesday, February 12, 2019, 19:14
Probe into Thai princess' aborted political venture mulled
By Agencies
Tuesday, February 12, 2019, 19:14 By Agencies

This Oct 27, 2017 photo shows Thai Princess Ubolratana Mahidol waving to Thai people outside Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. (PHOTO / AP)

BANGKOK - Thailand's Election Commission plans to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate an alleged wrongdoing of a political party for having named Princess Ubolratana Mahidol as its sole candidate for prime minister, an official of the polling agency said on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Thai election panel disqualifies princess as PM candidate

Several people, including outsiders, will likely sit on the investigating panel, following Monday's omission of the Princess's name from a list of Election Commission-verified candidates for prime minister in the March 24 election

Several people, including outsiders, will likely sit on the investigating panel, following Monday's omission of the Princess's name from a list of Election Commission-verified candidates for prime minister in the March 24 election.

The Election Commission had excluded Princess Ubolratana, the elder sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn from the race to power by citing the monarch's Royal Command, issued on Friday, as ruling that the Princess's electoral candidacy was "inappropriate," given her permanent status as a member of the Royal Household, who is constitutionally and traditionally supposed to remain uninvolved and neutral in politics.

Princess Ubolratana said online that she had accepted the controversial nomination merely as a commoner with respect to the constitutional right and freedom to get involved in politics. 

ALSO READ: Tired of army rule, Thai youth a rising force in March election

Though Princess Ubolratana has relinquished herself of royal titles since 1972, she is invariably regarded as a life-long member of the Royal Household, according to the monarch's Royal Command.

Meanwhile, Thai Raksa Chart leader Preechaphol Pongpanit declined to comment whether results of the ad hoc committee's probe might be forwarded to the Constitutional Court which might possibly lead to the dissolution of his party and a ban to all its executive board members from future political affairs.

He reassured that the party's rank and file will certainly proceed with its electoral campaign for MP seats.

TV channel suspended

Also on Tuesday, Thailand's telecoms regulator suspended the operating license of a television channel linked to ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, citing national security concerns. 

Two programs on Voice TV, Tonight Thailand and Wake Up News, spread information that caused public confusion and divisiveness, said the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, without elaborating. 

"The NBTC ordered Voice TV to improve itself with a suspension of the operating license for 15 days," said Perapong Manakit, one of the commissioners. 

Voice TV has previously been shut down twice, two days before the 2014 coup, which brought down Thaksin's sister, then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and in 2017

The March 24 election, pitting pro-military and royalist Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha against a populist movement led by Thaksin and his followers, will be the first since a military coup in 2014 and comes amid concerns over the junta's attempts to crack down on opponents. 

Voice TV is owned by two children of Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and who has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008 to avoid corruption charges he says were politically motivated. 

Takorn Tantasith, the regulator's secretary-general, said the violation was against television broadcasting laws, particularly a section that concerns national security and peace and order. 

Some of the episodes mentioned in a copy of the NBTC order, published by Voice TV, featured interviews with two prime minister candidates from Thaksin's Pheu Thai party. 

Voice TV has previously been shut down twice, two days before the 2014 coup, which brought down Thaksin's sister, then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and in 2017. 

Its chief executive, Mekin Petchplai, called the order "unfair", and said the channel would appeal and demand more than 100 million baht (US$3.19 million) in damages. 

"When the country is heading towards an election in a few weeks, (this) should stop because the people need quality, well-rounded news to inform their decisions on the vote," said Mekin. 

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