Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in an address marking his 86th birthday, called on his people to do their duty “for stability, security of our nation” in an apparent reference to ongoing anti-government protests.
While avoiding a direct reference to the sometimes violent demonstrations that have rocked the capital, Bangkok, in recent weeks, the world’s longest-serving monarch, said “All Thais should … behave and perform our duties accordingly, our duty for the sake of the public, for stability, security for our nation of Thailand.”
The king’s birthday ceremony took place at his seaside palace in Hua Hin, 120 miles south of Bangkok, where the ailing monarch and Queen Sirikit moved when he left the hospital in July.
As NPR’s Krishnadev Calamur reported earlier this week, “The protests began Nov. 24 but turned violent … when police clashed with demonstrators opposed to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.”
The Bangkok Post says the king “spoke in a halting but determined voice with long pauses in between sentences. His message was clear and significant given the country’s current political turmoil.”
The anti-government demonstrations were placed on hold in respect for the king, but protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who leads a faction that has adopted the royal color yellow as its symbol, has pledged to resume his fight against Yingluck’s government again on Friday.
Earlier this year, Yingluck’s ruling Pheu Thai party introduced an amnesty bill that would have allowed her billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, to return from self-imposed exile abroad. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, later fled the country amid charges of corruption against him.
King Bhumibol, although technically a figurehead, is revered as a unifying figure in a country that has become increasingly divided along class lines – with wealthier, middle-class Thais in the cities steadily losing political clout to the poorer, rice-growing regions of the north and northeast.