Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, the elder sister of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, has been nominated as the Thai Raksa Chart party’s candidate in the prime ministerial race, the party announced on Friday (Feb 8).
This is the first time a close member of the royal family has sought political office in the country’s 86-year history as a constitutional monarchy.
She will be running against current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also announced on Friday his intention to contest the Mar 24 elections.
KING’S ELDEST CHILD
Nicknamed “La Poupée” after the French word for “doll”, the 67-year-old princess is the eldest child of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. She was born in Lausanne, Switzerland on Apr 5, 1951, while her father was a student there.
She has three siblings: King Vajiralongkorn, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn.
Princess Ubolratana studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated in 1973 with a degree in mathematics. She also attended the University of California in Los Angeles and obtained a master’s degree in public health.
The princess competed in the 1967 Southeast Asian Games in Bangkok, winning a gold medal in sailing together with her father.
RELINQUISHED ROYAL TITLE FOR LOVE
In 1972, Princess Ubolratana gave up her royal style and title to marry MIT student Peter Ladd Jensen. The princess, who took the name Mrs Julie Jensen, then settled in the US with her husband.
The couple has two daughters: Ploypailin and Sirikitiya. Their son, Bhumi, died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The Los Angeles Times reported that the 21-year-old, who had autism, drowned while jet-skiing at Khao Lak in southern Thailand.
She relocated to Thailand in 2001, following her divorce in 1998.
Despite never regaining her full royal titles – she is currently referred to as “Tunkramom Ying” or “Daughter to the Queen Regent” – the princess performs royal duties and is treated by officials as a member of the royal family.
Princess Ubolratana does not shy away from the spotlight. Over the years, she has become something of a celebrity in her native Thailand.
Khaosod English reports that she made her first television appearance in 2003. Since then, she has starred in television dramas such as Kshatriya and Anantalai, where she played the ruler of a kingdom destroyed by a flower with narcotic-like qualities.
She also featured in films, such as Where the Miracle Happens and My Best Bodyguard.
Princess Ubolratana hosts a talk show called To Be Number One Variety, where she gives advice to the youth.
She also has a musical side, having performed in concerts and recorded theme songs, including one for her anti-drug foundation To Be Number One.
In addition, the princess is an avid social media user and posts photos and videos on her Instagram account, which has more than 97,000 followers despite being set to “private”.
Some of the recent videos on her account showed her eating street food and complaining about pollution in Bangkok, reported Reuters.
The princess also lends her support to philanthropic endeavours.
According to Reuters, her campaign “To Be Number One” was established in 2002 and aims to help youths stay away from drugs.
She started the Khun Poom Foundation in memory of her late son. The foundation helps children with autism and learning disabilities.