Pause in political violence for Thai king’s birthday
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Anti-government protesters and police are observing a day-long truce in recognition of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday on Thursday. But the protest leader vowed to resume the "battle" against supporters of the current prime minister.
Thailand put the violence and street battles that have gripped the country over the last two weeks on hold Thursday to celebrate the 86th birthday of its revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who used his annual birthday speech to call for stability.
The day-long truce between anti-government protesters and police came as a gesture of tribute for a man long seen as a unifying figure, particularly in times of crisis.
Many people were hopeful the king would intervene – as he has done in the past – to address the current conflict, which results from years of tension between supporters and opponents of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was deposed by a 2006 military coup after being accused of corruption and disrespect for the king.
Protesters are seeking to bring down the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is Thaksin’s sister, and set up an unelected “people’s council” to run the country. Violence from the clashes resulted in five people dead and at least 277 injured since the weekend.
Taking great effort and pausing for long stretches between words, the king made no explicit reference to the violence, but emphasised the need for unity.
“Our country has long experienced happiness because we have been united in performing our duties and working together for the good of the whole country,” the king said, dressed in a ceremonial golden robe and seated on a throne before an audience that included the prime minister, her cabinet and leaders of the armed forces. “All Thais should consider this very much and focus on doing their duties ... which are the security and stability of the country.”
Battle to ‘resume’, protest leader vows
Crowds dressed in the royal colour of yellow waited at the side of roads in the seaside town of Hua Hin to catch a glimpse of the frail and aging monarch. Many shouted “Long live the king” as his motorcade drove slowly to Klai Kangwon Palace, which literally means “Far From Worries”.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has vowed to continue the struggle, saying that “our battle” will resume Friday.
The king is in less robust physical shape than he used to be, recovering only this past July from a lung infection and other complications that kept him in the hospital for nearly four years.
As a constitutional monarch, he has no official political power. But the king commands unrivalled moral authority and loyalty from the military in the coup-prone Southeast Asian country.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)