Thailand’s revered king on Thursday appealed to the people to work for the “stability and security” of the country but did not make any direct comment on the anti-government protests that has deeply polarised the Buddhist majority nation.
Anti-government protesters demanding the resignation of Premier Yingluck Shinawatra and security forces on Wednesday observed an uneasy truce on the eve of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 86th birthday.
However, tensions are running high as protesters have vowed to continue their fight after the celebrations end. At least five people have been killed and over 200 injured in clashes since the weekend.
The King said the country “has been peaceful for a long time because everybody worked together.”
“Every Thai should be aware of this and should perform their role for the benefit of the country, which is the stability and security of the country,” the world’s longest ruling monarch said in the speech broadcast on all television channels.
The King, adored by all Thais, did not make any direct reference to the protests in his speech. The King is a constitutional monarch with no formal political role, but he is seen as a unifying figure for Thais.
The protesters accuse Ms. Yingluck of being a proxy for her elder brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 by the military and is in self-exile in Dubai.
The rallies were triggered by an amnesty bill, since abandoned by Ms. Yingluck’s party, which the opposition claimed would have allowed Mr. Thaksin to return.
Premier Ms. Yingluck represented the government and Thai people to wish the King on his birthday.
Today’s ceremony was held at the king’s seaside palace in Hua Hin, about 190 km south of Bangkok, where he moved with Queen Sirikit after they left a hospital here in July after a four-year stay.
Hundreds of supporters shouted “long live the King!” and waved Thai national flags as the royal convoy made a brief tour of the town’s streets before returning to the palace.
The King wore a ceremonial golden robe and sat on a throne before an audience that included Ms. Yingluck and her Cabinet ministers, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and his three sisters, and the leaders of the armed forces. The queen, who suffered a stroke in July last year, was not seen in TV pictures of the ceremony.
A huge portrait of the King had been erected at Democracy Monument near the capital’s Grand Palace, one of the main anti-government rally sites.
Meanwhile, Suthep Thaugsuban, who led weeks of anti-government protests, said the truce would end on Friday.
“Today is a day that Thai people nationwide believe is an auspicious day,” Mr. Suthep said after watching the King’s speech.
“Tomorrow the people’s movement will continue to eradicate the Thaksin regime from Thailand.”
Mr. Suthep, who began his protest along with thousands of supporters, had initially wanted the Yingluck government to quit but has now called for an “unelected prime minister” and people’s assembly.
Mr. Suthep, who is facing an arrest warrant on charges of insurrection, vowed to continue the protests.
Last week, thousands of protesters tried to take over key ministries to paralyse the government from functioning.
In Thailand, around 95 per cent people practice Buddhism.