Princess Ubolratana Steps Into Thailand’s Tense Political Fray

(FILE) - Thai Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya (Mahidol), elder sister of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, marches with the royal guards during the royal procession transferring the royal relics and ashes of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, 27 October 2017 (reissued 08 February 2019). According to media reports on 08 February 2019, Princess Ubolratana Mahidol of Thailand was nominated as a candidate for Prime Minister of Thailand by the Thai Raksa Chart political party. EPA-EFE/PONGMANAT TASIRI

She is one of the most high profile members of Thailand’s royal family.

Now Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya — the sister of current monarch King Maha Vajiralongkorn and eldest child of former King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 — is stepping into the country’s political fray, today announcing her candidacy for prime minister in the upcoming election.

She has been named the prime ministerial candidate for a party linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in a significant shakeup for the country.

Princess Ubolratana relinquished her royal title on July 25, 1972 when she married American Peter Jensen, who she met while studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her Bachelor of Science from MIT and went on to receive her Masters in public health at the University of California.

She’s one of several royals to famously give up their title for love, from Britain’s King Edward, who abdicated to marry American Wallis Simpson in 1936 to Japan’s Princess Mako, who’s announced her intention to give up her royal title to marry Kei Komuro, a lawyer.

Princess Ubolratana lived in the U.S. for 26 years until 1998, when she divorced Jensen and returned to Thailand. She and Jensen have three children, Ploypailin Mahidol Jensen, Bhumi Jensen — her son who died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at the age of 21 — and Sirikitiya Mai Jensen.

When she permanently returned to Thailand she was bestowed the title “Tunkramom Ying,” or “Princess”. Born in 1951 in Lausanne, Switzerland, her full name is Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi.

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Princess Ubolratana, 67, chairs four non-profit foundations championing anti-drug campaigns, support for autism and the poor, as well as other charitable foundations, according to the Thai Ministry of Culture.

“In everything we do we must devote our heart, our knowledge, every part of ourselves,” she said in 2017 in a speech to mark her father’s birthday. “Working with youth and with drugs, there are so many complexities behind it, but we have to work hard to help.”

Unlike her other royal siblings, she has a significant presence in mainstream media through her roles in Thai films including ‘Where The Miracle Happens,’ and ‘My Best Bodyguard.’ A long time ambassador of the Thai film industry, she is often seen at film premieres and festivals such as Cannes.

Beyond her royal appearances at charities and events, Ubolratana is an avid social media user who has close to 100,000 followers on her personal Instagram page. The Thai princess, who is also a singer, periodically posts videos of herself singing and dancing during the Christmas holidays and organizes youth concerts. DM


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