Thai king says he still loves protesters

Chayut Setboonsarng and Patpicha Tanakasempipat
·2-min read

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has said "we love them all the same" of protesters who seek to curb his powers and he called Thailand "the land of compromise" in his first direct public comments on months of demonstrations.

The king responded to questions during a walkabout with Queen Suthida in Bangkok, where they met thousands of royalists in their biggest show of support since the start of protests that also seek the removal of the government.

When asked what he would say to the protesters, the king told Channel 4 News: "We love them all the same." Asked if there was room for compromise, he said, "Thailand is the land of compromise."

One protest leader, Jutatip Sirikhan, 21, told Reuters: "I feel like they are just words. The word compromise is the opposite of what has actually happened ... like harassment and the use of force and the use of the law."

The protests began by seeking the departure of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha before breaking a longstanding taboo by calling for curbs on the king's powers.

Protesters want to reverse changes that gave him personal control of some army units and a palace fortune valued in the tens of billions of dollars.

They accuse the monarchy of enabling decades of army domination by accepting coups such as the one in which Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha took power in 2014.

Prayuth's government banned protests last month and arrested many of the best-known leaders, but the emergency measures were cancelled after they drew many more people onto Bangkok streets.

Three protest leaders were hospitalised at the weekend after police said they were being re-arrested at the expiry of the limit to their detention.

Prayuth has refused to resign and rejects accusations that elections last year were engineered for his benefit.