The King and Queen received a rousing reception from well-wishers and followers on Sunday in Bangkok. The atmosphere prompted some revealing comments from the King on the current tense political situation that has engulfed the country when he suggested that, as Monarch, he loved all Thai people equally and described his kingdom as the ‘land of compromise’. The comments followed clarification from German officials in Berlin, last week, that they were looking at the role played by the Thai King in the European country because of the current heightened political tensions in Thailand but later declared that they were satisfied, for now, that the situation did not require any action.
The King and Queen of Thailand have been pursuing a busy schedule in Thailand, this week, as loyal subjects around the country rallied in support of the royal institution. On Sunday, the King suggested to western media, gathered near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, that a compromise could be reached between the government and pro-democracy student protesters seeking political reform including reform to the royal institution. Among the crowd who came forward on Sunday to show his support was Bin Bunluerit, a famous actor, humanitarian and to many Thais, a hero because of his efforts to help flood victims last year when he single-handedly raised hundreds of millions of baht for those most in need.
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were greeted with a large crowd on Sunday as they attended a Buddhist ceremony at the Wat Phra Si Ratanasadaram in central Bangkok where they removed the robes of the Emerald Buddha and replaced them with new coverings to mark the change of season from monsoon to winter.
Later in the day, in a rare outburst, not seen since 1979 when he was Crown Prince, the King did respond, extemporaneously, to questions from western TV reporters including CNN and Channel 4.
Thailand is the land of compromise says the Thai King as he professed love for all Thais when asked by CNN
‘No comment,’ he said initially when approached but then added, ‘We love them all the same. We love them all the same. We love them all the same.’
The reporters then pressed the King on whether a compromise could be broached between the government and the rampant street protest movement seen in Bangkok in recent weeks. Maha Vajiralongkorn replied that ‘Thailand is the land of compromise’.
Busy week for the monarch had his consort
In the course of the last week, the Thai monarch and his consort have been seen at a long list of events as the monarchy finds itself, in an unprecedented situation in recent history, in the eye of the political storm with insistent calls from student-led protesters for the institution itself to be reformed and its powers reined in.
A significant opinion poll, last week, showed a decisive majority of the Thai public feel uncomfortable about the monarchy being embroiled in the struggle between the protest movement and the government. 60% of the Thai people do not want to see the monarchy involved in any respect.
Even so, the student-led protesters have begun to emphasise that what they are calling for is constitutional reform so that the role of the monarchy is defined under the constitution. The movement is not opposed to the institution and its pivotal role in Thai society per se.
Protests last Monday at the German Embassy by student protesters prompted enquiries in Berlin
Earlier in the week, protesters at the German Embassy raised the issue of the King’s residence in the German state of Bavaria with German authorities although later, following a parliamentary enquiry in Germany’s Bundestag, it appeared that authorities in Berlin were satisfied that the intermittent presence of the Thai monarch on German soil did not transgress German law.
The enquiry found that even if the Thai King made some decisions in respect of his role as Head of State in Thailand, from time to time on German soil, it did not, as of yet, present a problem for German authorities.
Earlier, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, struck a more cautious tone: ‘We are monitoring this long-term, it will have immediate consequences if there are things that we assess to be illegal.’
King has diplomatic immunity in Germany and authorities there are anxious to avoid a major incident
Earlier, officials in Germany had indicated that the Thai monarch had a long-standing visa allowing him to live in Germany for years and also that, as a head of state, the king enjoys diplomatic immunity.
A German source said that the prospect of revoking the visa of Thailand’s head of state would be a major diplomatic incident and something they wished to avoid at all costs.
However, the same source indicated that the political tension in Thailand, at this time, has made the German government more sensitive to the situation.
‘The German government has taken the view that it is not yet of the opinion that the Thai king has continuously conducted business,’ the source said and on that basis, matters can remain as they now stand.
Ruling political party in Thailand gears up with calls to support the monarchy at constituency level
The news comes as there are moves within the ruling Thai political party, Palang Pracharat, to galvanise and orchestrate increased support for the monarchy.
While opinion polls consistently show that the Thai public is against moves to reform the institution, seen as critical to the nation’s stability, many royalists fear confrontation with pro-democracy protesters could further fuel tensions and lead to violence which most Thais abhor.
The Palang Pracharat Party is understood to have instructed its MPs, at constituency level, to coordinate with the public.
There have also been, in the last two weeks, several large demonstrations around the country in Bangkok and other provinces where thousands of yellow-shirted supporters have rallied.
The institution still retains commanding levels of support in Thai society even among those on the other side of the political divide who are only calling for it to be brought into line with constitutional norms.
The irreplaceable role of the monarchy in Thailand has not been questioned and indeed it is, at times like this, that its influence is needed most.
This explains why recent opinion polls consistently show the Thai public very wary and nervous of the monarchy being dragged into the political struggle.
Actor who raised hundreds of millions for the poor during last year’s flooding, rallies for the King
The monarchy also received the support, this week, from one of Thailand’s most popular figures and a hero to many, who raised hundreds of millions of baht for flood victims last September after he was prompted by the suffering of people left homeless and facing ruin by the catastrophe.
Mr Bin Bunluerit, a retired actor, put up ฿1 million of his own money and within 48 hours, had raised ฿100 million to assist those in need.
He later went on to cooperate with the government in raising more funds including a live telethon on Thai TV networks which he led alongside the Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha.
‘We came here to show our loyalty to the king,’ he told reporters on Sunday.
Mr Bin is also well known as the key mover in a long-standing volunteer rescue service.
This week, he was among the crowd of royalist supporters who welcomed the King and Queen near the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
About the Author
Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer who writes extensively about woman’s issues in Thailand. One of her key subjects is the story of Thailand’s growing influence in the world and the role played by Thai women in the process. She is now a staff writer with Thai Examiner.com in Bangkok. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.