Saturday, November 28, 2020

Thai king declares ‘love’ for all after months of pro-democracy protests

'Thailand is the land of compromise,' says King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Other News

Pemuda DAP gesa parti pertimbang berpisah dengan PKR, bubarkan PH

Gesaan itu dibuat sekiranya Anwar Ibrahim tidak memohon maaf kepada parti sekutu dan rakyat Malaysia kerana tidak menyokong usul undi belah bahagi Belanjawan 2021.

North Korean hackers ‘targeting AstraZeneca researchers’ for Covid-19 vaccine secrets

Cyberattacks against vaccine scientists and drug makers have soared during the Covid-19 pandemic.

24 hours after sitting out budget vote, PH MPs still target of online scorn

Social media users say the opposition had called for the budget to be rejected but made no move to do so themselves.

Gagal tolak belanjawan, wakil rakyat PH dikecam pengguna media sosial

Kecaman itu dilakukan selepas Belanjawan 2021 diluluskan di peringkat dasar dengan mudah.

Belanjawan 2021 sudah tak boleh ditolak, PH gadai sokongan rakyat, kata Dr Mahathir

Bekas perdana menteri itu berkata, PH yang dipimpin Anwar Ibrahim sanggup berkompromi, menolak prinsip dan menggadaikan sokongan rakyat untuk kepentingan sendiri.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn called Thailand the “land of compromise” in unprecedented comments Sunday, during which the once-unapproachable monarch declared “love” for all Thais after months of protests calling for reform to the monarchy.

The 68-year-old ruler sits at the apex of Thai power, and comments to the media are rare due to protocols dictating formalities with the royal family.

Societal taboos also prohibit Thais from speaking to – or questioning – the monarch, who is protected from criticism thanks to a draconian royal defamation law with a broad legal interpretation.

But the once-untouchable institution faces unprecedented challenges from a growing pro-democracy movement, some of whose leaders are demanding reforms to the monarchy, including for the law’s abolition.

On Sunday, royal devotion was on display as thousands wearing yellow shirts – the royal colour – waited near the Grand Palace clutching portraits of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida.

Zigzagging through the crowd to greet supporters, the monarch was stopped by a reporter with Britain’s Channel 4 who asked him about protesters calling for reform.

“We love them all the same,” he told the reporter repeatedly according to a clip posted on Channel 4’s official Twitter account.

When asked if there is room for compromise, he said: “Thailand is the land of compromise.”

As Vajiralongkorn moved through the crowd, royalists chanted, “We will live loyally, die faithfully” and “Long live the King!”

The ultra-wealthy monarch is supported by the kingdom’s military and billionaire clans, wielding unparalleled influence across every aspect of Thai society.

He spends long periods of time in Germany, but has been in Thailand in recent weeks to mark a Buddhist holiday and the anniversary of his father’s death.

The visit has coincided with non-stop demonstrations from mostly young activists, who have staged guerrilla rallies drawing thousands to Bangkok’s most traffic-clogged intersections as a show of defiance.

While the movement is leaderless, they are united in their demand for the removal of Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former military chief who came to power after staging a coup in 2014.

Controversial demands

But calls for reform of the monarchy have drawn a backlash from Thailand’s conservative bloc, rousing royalist groups to stage their own rallies.

“We came here to show our loyalty to the king,” said Bin Bunleurit, a former Thai actor who decried the students’ demands.

Controversially, the students have also called for a clear accounting of the palace’s finances – which the extremely wealthy king took control of in 2018 – and for the monarch to “stay out” of politics.

“It is not reform, it is about overthrowing the monarchy,” Bin insisted to reporters outside the palace.

The growing show of force from royalists – as well as their increasingly harsh rhetoric online against the pro-democracy bloc – has observers worrying about violence spilling onto the streets.

Thailand is no stranger to political bloodshed, with previous pro-democracy movements forcefully put down by the arch-royalist military, which positions itself as the monarchy’s sole defender.

A notable example was a student massacre in 1976, which saw ultra-royalist militias and armed forces kill, stab and lynch protesters rallying against an ex-military dictator.

So far, the anti-government protests have remained peaceful.

But scores of students and activists have been arrested and charged – some with the serious crime of sedition.

Over the weekend three high-profile student leaders were released on bail, only to be swiftly accosted as authorities attempted to re-arrest them on another charge.

A scuffle with plainclothes police landed them in hospital.

On Sunday night one of the trio, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, pledged in a Facebook post that they would keep pushing for their goals.

“If the people do not step back, we will not step back,” he wrote.

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news and analyses.

Related Articles

Thailand extends emergency for 45 days until mid-January

Thailand's international borders will remain closed to casual travellers.

Thai protesters defiant after cops use water cannon, tear gas on demo

Forty-one people were injured as protesters forced through police barricades.

Thai king takes the Tube while ‘Bad Students’ march with coffin for education minister

'Mob Fest' protesters rally in central Bangkok calling for wide ranging reforms.

Hands off our porn: users protest Thai ban on sex websites

Thailand is the world’s 10th largest Pornhub market as measured by daily traffic.

Thai PM revokes emergency decree despite protests

The emergency measures were imposed last week after anti-government protesters flashed a three-finger salute to a royal motorcade – an unprecedented challenge to the monarchy.