Thai royal motorcades will no longer shut down Bangkok


Bangkok (AFP)

Royal motorcades will no longer completely shut down Bangkok's roads, a rare concession by the unassailable Thai king to public opinion.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 67, sits at the apex of Thai power and -- alongside senior royals -- is protected by a draconian defamation law, which makes public scrutiny of the family near impossible inside the kingdom.

Police routinely close down major roads when the royal family passes, adding serious delay on the congested streets of Bangkok and heaping frustration onto commuters.

Thais in recent months have taken to Twitter and Facebook to air their irritation over road closures believed to be linked to the royal family's travels.

The hashtag #Royalmotorcade trended last year on Thai Twitter, drawing tens of thousands of mentions.

Late Sunday government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said on Facebook that the king "has acknowledged the traffic problem and is concerned for the people".

Roads will no longer be completely shut down, according to a police video she posted detailing the changes, with officers ordered to use orange cones instead to designate a pathway for travelling royals.

The other side of the road can also be used by motorists and pedestrians.

"Long live the King," she added in her Facebook post.

Police did not respond to requests for comment.

The new guidelines are "a good sign" of a monarch responding to public concerns, said political analyst Titipol Phakdeewanich.

"It could make people feel more connected to the institution of the monarchy and show that the monarchy is not ignoring them," he added.

Vajiralongkorn inherited one of the world's richest monarchies when he ascended the throne in 2016 following the death of his father.

He was officially crowned last May in an elaborate three-day coronation ceremony.