Bangkok: Thailand’s king issued a cryptic statement hours before polls open for the country’s first general election since a 2014 coup, quoting his late father’s advice to support “good” leaders to prevent “chaos”.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s last-minute intervention comes less than two months after another royal command torpedoed the candidacy of his elder sister Princess Ubolratana for prime minister of a party linked to billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The king called the move to bring his sister into politics “highly inappropriate”, as the monarchy is ostensibly above the political fray.
The party was later dissolved by a court, a fresh chapter of intrigue in the politically combustible country.
Thaksin, a divisive telecoms tycoon, was ousted in a 2006 coup and went into self-exile two years later.
But his affiliated parties have won every Thai election since, drawing on huge loyalty from rural and urban poor.
On Friday Ubolratana was guest of honour at the glitzy Hong Kong wedding of Thaksin’s daughter – with photos of the tycoon and the princess hugging and smiling going viral.
The unscheduled palace statement featured remarks by late king Bhumibol Adulyadej from 1969 calling for people to “support good people to govern the society and control the bad people” to prevent them from “creating chaos”.
Vajiralongkorn urged the public to “remember and be aware” of the remarks of his father, who died in 2016.
The message comes a few hours before Thais were set to vote in a national election for the first time since the 2014 coup – the twelfth by the army in less than a century.
The king called on the general public, the military, police and civil service to heed the words of his father.
“His majesty is concerned about the stability of the nation, the feelings and happiness of the people,” the statement added.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. But the palace holds unassailable powers and is shielded from criticism by a harsh royal defamation law. — AFP
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