Thai King gets show of royalist support at monarchy event

Hundreds gather outside palace on holiday marking 1910 death of former king Rama V

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida greeting royalist supporters after a Buddhist ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok yesterday for the late King Chulalongkorn, known as Rama V, who earned a reputation as a moderniser.
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida greeting royalist supporters after a Buddhist ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok yesterday for the late King Chulalongkorn, known as Rama V, who earned a reputation as a moderniser.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana taking a picture of royalist supporters on the way to the Grand Palace with her family for the Buddhist ceremony yesterday.
Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana taking a picture of royalist supporters on the way to the Grand Palace with her family for the Buddhist ceremony yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK • Hundreds of Thai royalists wearing shirts in yellow - the King's colour - waited outside the Grand Palace yesterday to receive the Thai monarch on a holiday marking the anniversary of the 1910 death of King Chulalongkorn, known as Rama V, who earned a reputation as a moderniser.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida later greeted supporters after a Buddhist ceremony for the late King Chulalongkorn.

The Thai monarchy has become a key focus of escalating protests, with calls for reform of the royal institution and for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to be removed from office.

The protests since July have been the biggest challenge to Thailand's establishment in years. Demonstrations have become more openly critical of the King, breaking a longstanding taboo, by demanding curbs to his powers, outraging Thai royalists.

The King's wealth in particular has become a source of resentment, with protesters demanding more control over royal assets.

A defining moment in the growing protest movement started with the unannounced arrival of a champagne-coloured Rolls-Royce stretch limousine on a Bangkok street last week.

When Queen Suthida's motorcade slowed as it encountered a few dozen protesters jeering outside Bangkok's Government House, royalists denounced it as unforgivable harassment in a kingdom whose Constitution demands reverence for the monarchy.

The opposition Move Forward party said on Thursday that it was planning a parliamentary motion "to study the mistakes made over the motorcade", complaining that this had led to severe action being taken, specifically the use of Article 110 charges of violence or attempted violence against the Queen.

One of the most prominent protest leaders was freed on bail yesterday and he pledged to keep up the campaign to remove Mr Prayut.

Jatupat "Pai" Boonpattararaksa was arrested on Oct 13, when a few hundred protesters scuffled with police a day before a major demonstration that also called for reforms to the monarchy.

"We will continue to drive out Prayut in any way we can... I want the people to come out to join us in changing the country," Jatupat told Reuters after his release on bail.

He faces multiple charges related to the protests. His time in jail "has just changed my hairstyle but not our spirit and our demands", he said, referring to the regulation buzz cut he was given in detention.

Dozens of protesters have been arrested and several of the best-known leaders remain in detention.

Protesters have given Mr Prayut until tomorrow to quit or face further action. They say Mr Prayut, a former military leader, engineered last year's election to hold on to power that he first took in a 2014 coup. He says the election was fair.

A ban on protests on Oct 15 backfired when it drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets in anger. The emergency decree was lifted on Thursday.

Mr Prayut said he hoped it would "de-escalate" the situation.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'Thai King gets show of royalist support at monarchy event'. Print Edition | Subscribe