Thai king calls for unity after protests

Juarawee Kittisilpa and Matthew Tostevin
·1-min read

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn has told well-wishers of the importance of unity as he marked the opening of a new railway line, after thousands of protesters turned their backs on his motorcade in Bangkok.

Around 2500 demonstrators had gathered at the capital's Democracy Monument in the latest of months of protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, demanding changes to the constitution as well as reforms of the monarchy.

The protesters draped the centrepiece of the monument, which has become a rallying point for the protests, in a cloth covered in grievances and insults.

"Dictatorship be destroyed, democracy shall prosper," shouted protesters who scaled the three-metre structure.

As the motorcade carrying the king and Queen Suthida passed by, they turned their backs, gave the three-fingered "Hunger Games" salute of pro-democracy campaigners, and sang the national anthem in the latest show of disaffection with the monarchy.

The king was greeted with a show of support when he arrived at the rail ceremony in the west of the city, where thousands of people had gathered in yellow shirts, waving national flags and chanting "long live the king".

Yeacher Donnapha Kladbupha, 48, who posed for selfies with the king, said "he told me to show children how important the unity of the country is".

The Royal Palace has not commented since the start of the protests, but the king said two weeks ago that the protesters were still loved and that Thailand was a land of compromise.