BANGKOK (Reuters) - Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi upended military-ruled Thailand’s politics by becoming the prime ministerial candidate for a party loyal to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra in elections set for March 24.
Her surprise candidacy was rebuked by her younger brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, late on Friday night, likely making her bid short-lived.
Princess Ubolratana, 67, was declared a prime ministerial candidate on Friday morning, an unprecedented move that broke the long-standing tradition of Thai royalty staying out of politics.
As of early Saturday morning, she had not withdrawn her candidacy, nor had Thailand’s Election Commission officially disqualified her.
Key events in Ubolratana’s life:
1951: Ubolratana is born in Lausanne, Switzerland, the first child of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit while her father was studying science at the University of Lausanne. She is given the title Her Royal Highness, Chao Fa (lady of the sky) before the family moves back to Thailand in December that year.
1952: Ubolratana’s brother, the future King Maha Vajiralongkorn, is born.
1960s: In her teenage years, she shared her father’s love of sports and became his favourite partner in tennis, badminton and small-boat sailing. The pair shared a gold medal in sailing at the Southeast Asian Games in 1967.
1969: The princess sets off for Boston to study nuclear physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
1972: She meets and marries American Peter Jensen, an MIT classmate. She relinquishes her royal titles as required by marrying a foreigner.
1973: Ubolratana graduates from MIT with a bachelor’s degree. She later settles in southern California taking the name Julie Jensen. She has three children with Jensen and does not return to Thailand for eight years.
1975: She receives a master’s degree in public health at the University of California, Los Angeles.
1990s: Ubolratana makes more frequent trips to Bangkok, joining her mother, Queen Sirikit, at charity events and balls.
1991: Ubolratana appears more frequently in the limelight on Thai magazine covers, society parties and fashion events. She does not recover her full titles but is treated as a full princess, with staff prostrating themselves at her feet.
1992: She founds the Ubolratana Foundation under patronage of the Queen, which supports children orphaned by HIV-related illnesses.
1998: Ubolratana and Jensen divorce and she brings their three children back to Thailand and resumes royal duties. The children receive Thai citizenship and are treated as royals.
2001: Ubolratana and her children permanently return to Thailand. She is referred to as “Tunkramom Ying” meaning “Daughter to the Queen Regent”.
2002: Ubolratana launches “To Be Number One” under royal patronage. The initiative is anti-drug campaign for at-risk youth and teens. She chairs the foundation, occasionally singing and dancing at awareness-raising programmes.
2003: Ubolratana stars as a princess in a soap opera set in the Ayutthaya period, “Kasattriya”.
2004: Ubolratana’s son, Bhumi, is killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami.
2008: She makes silver screen debut with “Where the Miracle Happens”, a film based on a novel she wrote in which she stars as a businesswoman who becomes a volunteer teacher.
2016: King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies in October and her brother assumes the throne later in the year. Ubolratana and Thaksin’s daughter exchange messages of support on social media during the mourning period for the late king.
2018: Pictures appear on social media of Ubolratana, Thaksin and his sister, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, at the World Cup in Russia.
Feb. 8, 2019. A Thaksin-linked party nominates Ubolratana as candidate for prime minister for a general election set for March 24.
King Vajiralongkorn issues a statement about 14 hours later calling her candidacy for prime minister “inappropriate”, unconstitutional and in conflict with the country’s traditions and customs.
Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Robert Birsel and Frances Kerry