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Anti-government protestors pledge loyalty to Thai King

Anti-government protesters march to mark the 64th anniversary of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's coronation, in Bangkok on May 5, 2014. Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej made a rare public appearance on May 5 to mark the 64th anniversary of h
Anti-government protesters march to mark the 64th anniversary of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's coronation, in Bangkok on May 5, 2014. Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej made a rare public appearance on May 5 to mark the 64th anniversary of his coronation, as the political turmoil gripping his kingdom enters a critical phase. -- PHOTO: AFP

DONNING bright yellow shirts, waving Thai flags and wearing whistles around their neck, hordes of anti-government supporters gathered in inner Bangkok on Monday to pledge allegiance to King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the 64th anniversary of his coronation.

Earlier in the day, thousands of well-wishers had lined the streets near the King's palace south of Bangkok to  mark the event, carefully avoiding any mention of the country's political woes.

The king himself - who has in the past intervened to steer the country away from further turmoil - remained silent during the ceremony. But supporters of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) see their rally as the first step in the latest of their numerous "uprisings" to oust the caretaker government.

Their preparations are expected to culminate in another major rally on May 14.

King Bhumibol, 86, is the world's longest reigning monarch and worries about the looming end of his reign have fed into the fervour expressed in the country's political turmoil so far.

The PDRC, which is backed by many among the elite, middle class, as well as south Thailand-based supporters of the opposition Democrat Party, has repeatedly professed its loyalty to the King. Their supporters have accused self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra - whose sister Yingluck Shinawatra is caretaker premier - of being a Republican.

The group wants the Thaksin clan to leave politics altogether and demands reforms under an appointed body before any election is called. It has even snubbed Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who in a mediation proposal unveiled on Saturday, called for the resignation of the caretaker Cabinet in favour of a "neutral" administration appointed by the Senate, and reforms to be drafted before an election is called near the end of the year.

Thailand has been functioning without a Lower House since Dec 9 when snap polls were called. Its election on Feb 2 was annulled after sabotage by protesters and it is expected to hold another poll on July 20.

tanhy@sph.com.sg