Thailand election panel disqualifies princess as PM candidate

The princess was nominated by Raksa Chart party. Above, a representative of the party hold the registration document submitted to nominate Ubolratana. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Thailand election panel disqualifies princess as PM candidate

  • The election panel published the list of candidates for prime minister without the princess’ name
  • The princess was nominated by a populist movement party, which supported the ousted Thaksin Shinawatra

BANGKOK: Thailand’s election panel on Monday disqualified the sister of the king from running for prime minister, putting an end to a stunning, short-lived candidacy by echoing King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s words that royalty should be “above politics.”
The Election Commission released the official list of parties’ candidates for prime minister without the name of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, the king’s elder sister.
The list left out Ubolratana “because every member of the royal family comes within the application of the same rule requiring the monarch to be above politics and to be politically neutral,” the panel said in a statement after a meeting.
The princess had accepted the nomination of the Thai Raksa Chart party, a populist movement drawn from supporters of ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been at the center of nearly 15 years of turmoil in Thai politics.
The March 24 elections are the first since a 2014 military coup toppled a pro-Thaksin government. Among the candidates for prime minister is the current junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army chief led the coup.
Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, but the royal family wields great influence and commands the devotion of millions of Thais, with the king considered to be semi-divine.
Ubolratana’s surprise nomination broke with a tradition for members of the royal family to stay out of politics.
However, in a statement read on all Thai television stations within hours of her announcement as a candidate, King Vajiralongkorn said it was “inappropriate” and unconstitutional for members of the royal family to enter politics.
The commission is also considering a complaint seeking to ban the Thai Raksa Chart party but did not mention the petition on Monday.


Controversy over South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home

Updated 16 min 43 sec ago
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Controversy over South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home

  • Reporting of child abuse rose more than 10-fold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases
  • Parental rights to physically discipline their children will be removed from the country’s civil code, an official said

SEOUL: A law allowing South Korean parents to physically discipline their children is to be scrapped, authorities said, prompting controversy in a country where hierarchical family values still predominate.
Reporting of child abuse — including neglect and emotional abuse as well as physical or sexual assaults — rose more than 10-fold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases, with 77 percent of the perpetrators known to be the victims’ parents.
“More in our society agree that child abuse is a serious social problem,” Seoul’s Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters.
“But many are still lenient about corporal punishment. The ministry is to change this perception.”
Parental rights to physically discipline their children will be removed from the country’s civil code, he said, where they have been stated since 1960. Physical punishment was also allowed in schools until 2010.
A recent government survey showed that 76.8 percent of adult South Koreans feel corporal punishment is necessary, and Thursday’s announcement prompted controversy.
Lee Kyung-ja, head of a conservative group of parents, was adamantly opposed to any change.
“I’m going to continue beating my kids even if it requires writing a contract with them,” she told AFP.
“I’ll refuse to give them food and pay for their tuition if they don’t listen to their parents — this is how I’ll re-establish my rights as a parent.”
South Korean children have been repeatedly cited as the least happy in the OECD group of developed countries, facing a high-pressure education system and deeply rooted traditional values which emphasize obedience and respect toward parents and authority figures.
That makes young victims of domestic violence especially vulnerable, as filing a complaint or publicly criticizing a parent can be considered a disgrace — or even a “sin against heaven.”
With few facilities for abuse victims, many parents facing prosecution have their charges dropped as there is no-one else to care for their children, said youth rights activist Kang Min-jin.
Earlier this year a 12-year-old girl who had reported abuse by both her biological father and her stepfather to police was murdered by the stepparent.
“Many Koreans still view as their children as their properties, rather than separate human beings who have their own set of opinions and judgment,” said activist Kang.
But Lee Hee-bum, who leads the conservative Freedom Union group, said the government decision amounted to state interference in personal and family lives.
“One should be able to decide how to parent his or her kids independently,” he said.