King’s Sister Gets Royal Medal, New Honorable Title

FILE - In this March 24, 2010, file photo, Thai Princess Ubolratana poses for a photo at the Thai Gala Night in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

BANGKOK — His Majesty the King on Thursday bestowed a new royal honor and decoration upon his elder sister, though her status remains unchanged.

An order published in the Royal Gazette honored Princess Ubolratana as Phra Sotarajetthabhakini, literally “an elder sister sharing the same womb”. The command praised Ubolratana for being “a person close to, loved and respected by” His Majesty and a companion with whom he has “shared happiness and hardship since childhood”.

A First Class Rattanabhorn Medal was also granted to the 68-year-old princess in the same announcement. The order was dated Wednesday but only made public today.

The new honors are not official royal titles, but a description of Ubolratana’s relation to His Majesty the King, a historian clarified. Ubolratana quit nobility in 1972 to marry an American, and her status has never been formally restored.

“It’s not a new title… It merely stated that they are siblings from the same parents,” Rungroj Bhiromanukul, who teaches at Ramkhamhaeng University, said in an interview.

Ubolratana was the epicenter of a political earthquake in February when the now-disbanded Thai Raksa Chart nominated her as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. Ubolratana and her supporters maintained she is a commoner and eligible to run for office.

But the King himself halted Ubolratana’s bid less than 24 hours later. Through a royal command, His Majesty ruled the princess cannot enter politics because she’s considered an exalted member of the royal family despite having renounced her royal titles 40 years ago.

The Constitutional Court eventually dissolved Thai Raksa Chart on allegations of drawing the monarchy into politics. Ubolratana’s status remains dubious for many observers.

“I don’t even know if she should be called a princess or former princess in English,” Rungroj said.

On the same day, His Majesty also bestowed two new decorations upon Col. Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi. She is a senior ranking royal guard.

Additional reporting Teeranai Charuvastra