In a rare moment, and certainly for the first time, when speaking of the current political turmoil, His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn has called Thailand the “land of compromise”.
The comment came in response to a question from Jonathan Miller, a British channel 4 correspondent who was part of an international media audience invited to sit among a crowd of royalist supporters outside the Grand Palace. A CNN correspondent was also part of the small foreign media contingent.
When asked what he would say to the anti-government protesters, His Majesty first replied … “no comment” and then added … “We love her anyway. We love them anyway ”.
Meanwhile the crowd sang “Long Live the King”.
HM the King had presided over a ceremony to change the Emerald Buddha costume in Bangkok before coming out again to greet a crowd of well-wishers, the second time during his three-week visit to Thailand that he primarily interacted with devotees in dressed yellow shirts.
The brief but open exchange and even the access of foreign media are a step that signals that the palace is trying to make the image of the monarch accessible to a wider international audience. This was the first time since 1979 that the 68-year-old Thai head of state spoke to the international media. At that time he was still crown prince.
The current protest situation is unique and adds to the usual list of political demands for reform of the Thai monarchy. Again, the ranks of protesters come from the country’s universities … younger, educated Thais, not the former gathering of opposition and veteran politicians with a political ax to grind.
The series of protests, which has raged for four months, is the biggest challenge facing the ruling establishment in decades – the Bangkok elite, the army and the palace.
The protests broke the ingrained taboo on speaking publicly about the Thai royal family. Before a sensational reading of a 10-point manifesto on August 10th by a young 23-year-old university graduate, criticism or discussion about the reform of the Thai monarch was simply never discussed in a public forum. Thailand has some of the strictest Lèse Majesté laws in the world. If you criticize the king, queen or members of the Thai royal family, you will be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison.
First the protesters and now a wider Thai community discuss the role of the Thai monarch, examining King Vajiralongkorn’s wealth and power, as well as his preference to live in Bavaria for much of the year.
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