Thai King addresses protesters in uncommon public feedback, saying he ‘loves all of them the identical’

The Thai King made his first public feedback on the pro-democracy demonstrations which have gripped the nation for greater than 4 months in an unique uncommon joint interview with CNN and Channel 4 Information throughout a royal perform on the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Sunday.

Requested about what he would say to the protesters who’ve been on the streets calling for reform, King Vajiralongkorn informed CNN “no remark,” earlier than including, “We love all of them the identical. We love all of them the identical. We love all of them the identical.”

Requested whether or not there was any room for compromise with protesters who’re demanding a curb on his powers, Vajiralongkorn stated that, “Thailand is the land of compromise.”

That is the primary time that the 68-year-old monarch has spoken to international media since 1979 when he was Crown Prince.

In a uncommon transfer for the palace, members of the worldwide press had been invited to take a seat amongst crowds of royalist supporters ready to see the King. Often, solely the royal information groups are allowed to cowl this type of annual royal perform, particularly on the Grand Palace — an indication that the King could also be eager to enhance his picture internationally because the mass protest motion poses a direct problem to his rule.

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn waves from his limousine after officiating a graduation ceremony at Bangkok's Thammasat University on October 31, 2020.

King Vajiralongkorn had on Sunday taken half in a non secular ceremony to mark the change of the season on the Grand Palace. The King modified the costume of the Emerald Buddha statue — an important statue of the Buddha in Thailand — marking the official transition from the wet season to winter.

Wearing yellow, 1000’s of pro-monarchy supporters gathered on the palace and have been greeted by King Vajiralongkorn, Queen Suthida and the King’s daughter Princess Sirivannavari.

The Princess informed CNN that Thailand is a peaceable nation, saying “we love the Thai folks, it doesn’t matter what.”

Pupil-led protests have been ongoing nearly day by day throughout Thailand since July, attracting tens of 1000’s of individuals calling for a brand new structure, the dissolution of parliament and resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha — the previous military common who seized energy in a 2014 coup.

A core demand of the demonstrations has been reform of Thailand’s highly effective monarchy to make sure the King is answerable to the structure.

It is the most important problem to the ruling institution in a long time, with younger folks publicly breaking entrenched taboos on talking overtly concerning the royal household in public. Thailand has a few of the world’s strictest lese majeste legal guidelines, and criticizing the King, Queen, or inheritor obvious can result in a most 15-year jail sentence.

As Thailand grapples with an financial downturn exacerbated by measures to regulate the coronavirus pandemic, protesters have begun to scrutinize King Vajiralongkorn’s immense wealth and energy.

Vajiralongkorn has consolidated his energy by increasing his personal appointed navy unit, the King’s Guard. He has additionally vastly elevated his private wealth and transferred billions of {dollars}’ value of royal belongings held by the Thai Crown immediately into his management.

Protesters say that Thailand can not obtain true democracy till the top-down ruling institution made up of the monarchy, navy and rich political elites is reformed.

The King’s feedback come because the political disaster in Thailand is in peril of morphing right into a diplomatic downside with Germany, the place the Thai King spends a lot of his time.

Final Monday, 1000’s of Thai protesters marched to the German embassy in Bangkok calling on the German authorities to analyze whether or not the King has performed state enterprise throughout his time within the nation. In a letter submitted to the German Embassy in Thailand, protesters additionally requested the German authorities probe the King’s tax information.

Pro-democracy demonstrators march to the German Embassy in central Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2020.

Berlin has stated it could be unacceptable for Vajiralongkorn to conduct politics from Germany and the nation’s Overseas Minister Heiko Maas stated it’s persevering with to look into his actions whereas on German soil.

“We’re monitoring this long-term,” Maas stated at a information convention final Monday. “It’s going to have instant penalties if there are issues that we assess to be unlawful.”

In a rare session of parliament on Monday, Prayut dismissed calls from opposition events to resign however indicated that the federal government supported amending the structure.

The session failed to supply any outcomes to ease the political disaster, as an alternative the formation of a nationwide reconciliation committee was proposed.

The King returned to Thailand in early October for a sequence of royal duties and official features.

Dozens of protesters have been arrested beneath an emergency decree imposed shortly after the King’s arrival in Thailand. The emergency measures, which banned public gatherings of greater than 4 folks within the capital, adopted greater than every week of day by day anti-government protests in Bangkok and different cities.

Costs have ranged from smaller offenses to extra critical crimes resembling sedition, which carries a most seven years in jail, and violating the Laptop Crime Act. Two activists have been arrested on prices of trying violence towards the Queen, after her motorcade was obstructed by anti-government crowds, and face a potential life sentence.

Prime Minister Prayut, with approval from the King, has since lifted those measures. However the demonstrations proceed.

Jonathan Miller and Kocha Olarn reported from Bangkok, Thailand, Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong. With extra reporting from Reuters.

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