Bangkok, Nov 2 (efe-epa).- Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn, speaking to a television channel for the first time about protesters calling for reforms in the monarchy, called the country the land of compromise and stressed that he loved all its people.
The king, who mingled with a crowd of supporters late Sunday in Bangkok after attending a religious ceremony at the Grand Palace, was approached by a reporter for the British broadcaster Channel 4 during his walkabout.
“We love them all the same,”Vajiralongkorn said up to three times in his first direct statement to the media since he assuming the throne, when asked by the journalist about his opinion regarding the ongoing protests calling for changes in the institution of monarchy.
“Thailand is the land of compromise,” the monarch replied when asked whether there was room for compromise with the tens of thousands of protesters who have been out on the streets in the capital and other cities of the country since July calling for democratic reforms.
The king, who ascended to the throne in October 2016 after the death of his father, King Bhumibol, has not inherited the charisma and respect of his predecessor, who occupied the position for 70 years.
Student-led demonstrations have taken an unprecedented turn by daring to challenge the monarch’s power and demand reforms in the monarchy, protected from criticism through tough lese majeste laws, under which people may be imprisoned for up to 15 years.
The opulent lifestyle of the king, who spends most of his time in the German province of Bavaria, has led to criticism during the Covid-19 crisis, which has severely hit the Thai economy.
With seven children from three previous marriages, four of them unrecognized, the monarch married a former flight attendant, Suthida, last year and a few months later, officially presented his royal consort, Sinenat Wongvajirapakdi.
After the king’s statements to the British channel, his youngest daughter, Princess Sirivannavari, approached the reporter underlining their love for the people of Thailand, which she described as a peaceful country.
Besides reforms in the monarchy, students also want a new constitution and reduce the power of the military, which has staged 13 coups since absolute monarchy came to an end in 1932.
The latest coup took place in 2014 and was led by Prayut Chan-ocha, who was elected prime minister in the 2019 elections that was criticized for lack of transparency in the process. EFE-EPA