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Thai princess disqualified from list of candidates for PM

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Written by Maritime First

…As Emirates celebrates love for Nigerian travellers on Valentine’s Day***

Thai Princess Ubolratana was on Monday formally disqualified for running for prime minister, ending her brief and ill-fated political union with a party allied to the powerful Shinawatra clan, just days after a stern royal command rebuking her candidacy was issued by her brother, the king.

Uncertainty and conjecture have coursed through Thailand since Friday when the Thai Raksa Chart party made the explosive announcement of Princess Ubolratana, King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s elder sister, as their candidate for premier after the March 24 election.

Her tilt appeared to some to be a masterstroke of back-room dealings by Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire self-exiled ex-premier, just weeks before the poll.

But just hours later it fell apart.

A royal command from the king put a pin in her unprecedented political aspirations, insisting the monarchy was above politics and describing his sister’s candidacy as “highly inappropriate”.

Thailand’s incredibly wealthy and powerful monarchy is revered by Thais and protected by a draconian lese majeste law. The king’s word is seen as final.

On Monday the Election Commission formally scratched her candidacy.

“The EC today has announced the name of candidates excluding Princess Ubolratana proposed by the Thai Raksa Chart party,” it said in a statement, explaining “all royal family members are above politics.”

Despite its brevity, the princess’s foray into politics has electrified the political landscape of the country, as speculation over who wins and loses from her tilt ricochets across the kingdom.

Coups and plots 
Chatter of an impending coup against the ruling junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha and a major change in army top brass has billowed out, with the hashtag #coup trending in the top 10 on Thai Twitter.

On Monday junta chief Prayut on Monday was forced to dismiss rumours of an impending coup as “fake news”.

“Rumours…? We’re investigating. Fake news,” he told reporters at Government House.

The gruff former general, masterminded a putsch against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, in 2014.

Meanwhile, a chastened Thai Raksa Chart, a key pillar in Thaksin’s election strategy, agreed to comply with the royal command.

It may face censure by election authorities that could ultimately see it dissolved, although it was not clear if any ban could be in place before the election takes place.

Thailand’s generals have a penchant for coups, backroom plotting and factional struggles.

They have grabbed power 12 times since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, including against existing juntas seen to have over-stepped their mark.

Prayut has agreed to stand for premier after the election and is aided by an army-scripted constitution.

But critics say he has personalised power and outstayed his welcome with a public wearied by his finger-jabbing style.

The king appointed a new army chief, Apirat Kongsompong, last year from a rival faction of the army to Prayut and his junta allies.

Recent days have seeded unease, with the first election in eight years now seemingly dependent on behind-the-scenes power plays by the elite.

Meanwhile, the fate of Thai Raksa Chart hangs in the balance.

The party, a second to the Thaksin political powerhouse Pheu Thai, was expected to help the Shinawatra machine secure a majority in the 350-seat lower house.

But it is under intense pressure following its bid to bring in the princess.

“I think the party leader and board should take a responsibility by resigning,” said Srisuwan Janya of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, a royalist activist group, who submitted a petition to election authorities Monday calling for the party’s censure.

In the meantime, Emirates is celebrating the season of love with its Nigerian customers on board and across its lounges worldwide this Valentine’s Day.

The celebrations will kick off in Emirates’ network of lounges, and climax on-board with a refreshed Valentine’s Day offering to create a memorable travel experience for customers.

Nigerian travellers who coincidentally are in Dubai on Valentine’s Day and planning to fly by Emirates will be hosted to a treat at the Emirates First and Business Class lounges in Dubai from the 13th to 15th February.

They will enjoy; a Valentine’s champagne treat with the lively and generous notes of Moet & Chandon Rosé Imperial, a selection of Valentine’s inspired cakes and desserts including heart shaped dark chocolate raspberry truffle, strawberry eton mess with mini heart sprinkles, red velvet cupcakes and red velvet ice cream, Valentine’s Day coffee infusions by Coffee Planet & special biscuits from Costa Coffee, a special Voss water infusion of strawberry & watermelon, specially flavoured teas from Dilmah including a spritely chamomile and black iced tea and a rum-based Moroccan mint mojito black iced tea which will be paired with Florentines and cookies.

Also, Complimentary bottle engraving on purchase of spirits from Le Clos, a fine wines & luxury spirits retailer in the lounge will be offered.

Emirates’ special pampering services in the lounges like the Timeless Spa and shoe shine services will also have special deals

In the same vein, Nigerian Travellers who will be present at the any of the Emirates’ network of 42 lounges worldwide between February 13th to 15th, will benefit from Emirates’ chefs meals, one of which is the heart shaped culinary creations.

The special selection of Valentine’s inspired desserts includes; Mud cake with a chocolate ganache, berry coulis and decorated with white chocolate hearts in lounges in Australia, White chocolate mousse with strawberry and passion fruit in lounges in the UK, Chocolate covered strawberries with coconut flakes in Emirates lounges in Boston, LAX and JFK, Pink macaroon and heart-shaped mousse cakes in Shanghai, and Red velvet torte with cream cheese and strawberry tart in Cairo, Egypt.

While on-board the Emirates flight, the Nigerian customers will be treated with meals seasoned with a touch of romance to complement the regionally inspired cuisine.

On Valentine’s Day itself, Emirates will serve a special selection of desserts on longer flights across its network.

Snack baskets in First Class will feature strawberry & cream flavoured Lakrids liquorice. At the First and Business class, customers can choose a Strawberry feuilletine with layered white chocolate mousse and strawberry jelly decorated with hearts for an after meal treat, while Economy Class, customers will be served a dark chocolate mousse topped with candied hearts for dessert.

‘ice’, Emirates’ award winning inflight entertainment system will also get travellers in the Valentine’s mood. Nigerian travellers can get to watch the highly celebrated Nollywood movie ‘The Royal Hibiscus Hotel’ (Nigeria), a romantic movie produced by the makers of the ‘Wedding Party’. The movie starred top Nollywood actors and actresses such as Zainab Balogun, Kenneth Okolie, and Jide Kosoko, amongst others.

Similarly, they can get entertained with other African movies such as ‘Supa Modo’, Kenya’s 2019 Oscar submission in the Best Foreign Film category, ‘I Am Not A Witch’ (Zambia), ‘Farewell Ella Bella’ (South Africa), to mention but a few.

For lovers of TV shows, they can enjoy ‘African laughs: Chinedu’, one of Africa’s comedy shows with funniest stand-up comedians.

Nigerian music playlists available on ice for the month of February include music by Fela Kuti, Davido’s ‘Son of Mercy EP’, WizKid’s ‘Sounds from the Other Side’, and Burna Boy’s ‘Outside’. Other African music to choose from are Dj Ganyani’s House Grooves, Best of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, African Pop Mix, and Diamond Platnumz’s A Boy from Tandale.

Customers can also create their own playlists of music, movies and TV shows on the Emirates app ahead of their flight and sync it to their seats once on board.

Those looking for gifts for their loved ones can look forward to special deals. Emirates’ onboard Duty Free, titled ‘Be by Emirates’ features a revamped catalogue with new and exclusive products.

Nigerian customers who spend USD 95 or more between February 8th and 10th, will enjoy a 20% discount.

The Emirates official stores will have Valentine’s Day pyjamas for ladies and other Valentine’s themed Emirates merchandise available at www.emirates.store. Customers can also use the promo code EKLOVE until 11th Feb for free delivery on purchases over USD 100.

AFP with additional report from The Citizen

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Maritime First