Thailand’s king said his country is “the land of compromise” during a rare public interview about the months-long protests demanding greater political and societal reforms, including of the monarchy itself.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn made the comments Sunday to British-based Channel 4 News as he and Queen Suthida walked among scores of supporters of the royal family after presiding over a religious ceremony outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The comment was in response to a question whether the king would compromise with protesters’ demands to reduce the monarchy’s influence.
When asked what he would say to the protesters, King Vajiralongkorn said “We love them all the same,” repeating the phrase twice.
Bangkok has been the scene of weeks of massive protests that initially began with demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army general who seized power in a 2014 coup that ousted the elected civilian government. He won election to the post last year, but protesters say the vote was rigged in his favor due to laws drafted by the military.
But the demonstrations have also evolved to include demands for reforms to Thailand’s constitutional monarchy, which maintains divine-like status among Thailand’s elite and elicits strong support from the military. The protesters have even gone so far as to openly criticize the monarchy, flying in the face of strict “lese majeste” laws which imposes prison sentences for anyone convicted of insulting the king and his family.
The protesters marched on the Germany Embassy last week to demand the German government investigate whether King Vajiralongkorn has conducted state business during his extended stays there and to probe his tax records.
The king has consolidated his own power by taking personal control of some army units, as well as billions of dollars held by the royal palace.