Army-aligned party buoyed amid Thai political turmoil

Opponents of the powerful Shinawatra political clan protested in Bangkok (AFP Photo/Panumas Sanguanwong)

Bangkok (AFP) - Opponents of the Shinawatra political clan campaigned triumphantly in the Thai capital on Sunday, after a weekend of high political drama when a Thai princess' bid to be premier provoked a rare royal rebuke.

Thai Princess Ubolratana's unprecedented attempt to become prime minister of Thailand was scuttled after her party agreed to comply with a command from her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday, opposing her move to contest the upcoming election.

The Thai Raksa Chart party, affiliated with the powerful Shinawatra political clan, had announced the princess as their candidate Friday morning -- a move which rattled the status quo and threatened the ambitions of the generals in power.

The much-anticipated election is set for March 24 and will be the first since a 2014 coup.

Members of the Phalang Pracharat party -- which is aligned with the military -- were jubilant following the weekend's upheaval and its party leaders took to the streets, campaigning in a 60-vehicle convoy, to tout their tradition-abiding credentials.

"We won't work with a party that is not like us: respecting the laws... traditions and Thai customs -- something that Thai people are very strict about," party leader Uttama Savanayana told reporters Sunday, in a reference to the Thai Raksa Chart party.

Perched on top of a truck driving in central Bangkok, Phalang Pracharat party leaders waved and yelled into mostly empty streets, peppered by occasional shop vendors.

"We take this seriously! This isn't a play!" said Buddhipongse Punnakanta, a party member who recently left his position as spokesman for junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Prayut announced his interest in staying on as prime minister on Friday, submitting his candidacy under Phalang Pracharat -- but the move was overshadowed by Thai Raksa Chart's unorthodox candidate pick.

The Election Commission will meet on Monday morning and is expected to discuss the future of Thai Raksa Chart, following the strong condemnation from the king.

The Association for the Protection of the Constitution plans to file a petition to the commission to "investigate if Thai Raksa Chart Party's nomination of Princess Ubolratana is lawful and constitutional", said chairman Srisuwan Janya.

"If (the commission) finds it to be unconstitutional, they should submit a case to the constitutional court to dissolve the party," he told AFP.

A day after the party's swift response saying it "complies with the royal command" to retract the princess' candidacy, Thai Raksa Chart issued a statement Sunday saying their party policies remain unchanged.

"We will keep moving forward in the election so that we can solve the problems for the people and country," the party said in a statement posted on Facebook.