King declares 'love' for all, calls Thailand 'land of compromise'

King declares 'love' for all, calls Thailand 'land of compromise'

Their Majesties the King and the Queen are greeted by a yellow-shirt crowd outside the Grand Palace who turned out to show their respect and love for the monarchy on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Their Majesties the King and the Queen are greeted by a yellow-shirt crowd outside the Grand Palace who turned out to show their respect and love for the monarchy on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

His Majesty the King called Thailand the "land of compromise" in unprecedented comments on Sunday, during which the once-unapproachable monarch declared "love" for all Thais after months of protests calling for reform to the monarchy.

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

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 His Majesty moved through the crowd, royalists chanted, "We will live loyally, die faithfully" and "Long live the King!"

His Majesty has been in Thailand in recent weeks to mark a Buddhist holiday and the anniversary of HM King Bhumibol's passing.

The visit has coincided with non-stop demonstrations from mostly young activists, who have staged guerilla 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 Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Controversial demands

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 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," Mr 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.

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.

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