King calls Thailand 'land of compromise' in rare reaction to democracy rallies

Nicola Smith
·2 min read
The Thai king and queen greet supporters outside their Bangkok palace - Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The Thai king and queen greet supporters outside their Bangkok palace - Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Thailand’s king has called the Southeast Asian nation a “land of compromise,” in rare comments that indicate there may be a path out of the political impasse that has fuelled anti-government protests for several months.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn gave his first reaction to the pro-democracy movement that has roiled Thailand to Channel 4 News and CNN, during a royal function on Sunday. 

Asked about his message to protesters who have been calling for political reforms and unprecedented curbs to the monarch’s role, he initially said “no comment,” before adding: “We love them all the same. We love them all the same. We love them all the same.”

Responding to the question about whether there was any room for compromise over their demands, he said that “Thailand is a land of compromise.”

The comments mark the first time the notoriously private king, 68, has spoken to the foreign media since 1979 when he was Crown Prince. 

Crowds of royalists rallied in Bangkok on Sunday - Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Crowds of royalists rallied in Bangkok on Sunday - Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The interaction suggests an effort to improve his international image at a time when thousands have taken to streets to call for democratic reforms that include the bold demand to bring his powers under the constitution, breaking long-held traditions that have held the monarchy above all reproach.  

The role of the king has now become a diplomatically sensitive issue with Germany, where he resides for much of the year. 

Last week, Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, warned the king against using the country as a base to conduct Thai politics.

“We are monitoring this long-term,” Mr Maas said. “It will have immediate consequences if there are things that we assess to be illegal.”

Thai activists based in Germany plan to submit a series of Royal Gazettes to the Foreign Ministry verifying that King Vajiralongkorn approved, endorsed and ratified official documents during his time on German soil, claimed Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, in the Washington Post. 

Royalists and anti-establishment demonstrators rallied outside the Germany embassy in Bangkok earlier this month. 

Pro-monarchy demonstrations have generally been more modest in size, but on Sunday thousands of royalists gathered at Bangkok's Grand Palace for a glimpse of the King and Queen Suthida. 

Wearing yellow shirts as a sign of respect, they chanted “We will live loyally, die faithfully” as he emerged to greet and thank them.