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Thai king appeals for stability after protests

Agence France-Presse . Bangkok

Anti-government protesters wave national flags as they dance to music to celebrate Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday at Democracy Munument in Bangkok on Thursday. — AFP photoAnti-government protesters wave national flags as they dance to music to celebrate Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday at Democracy Munument in Bangkok on Thursday. — AFP photo

Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej urged the nation to work together for ‘stability’ in a speech Thursday on his 86th birthday, as protesters prepare for fresh anti-government rallies following a temporary lull in unrest.
The kingdom remains on edge following several days of street clashes during demonstrations aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and curbing the political influence of her brother Thaksin.
Demonstrators and police in Bangkok have observed a temporary truce since Wednesday for birthday celebrations for King Bhumibol, who is treated as a near-deity by many Thais.
But protesters, who maintain their occupation of the finance ministry and a key government complex on the outskirts of Bangkok, have vowed to gear up their rallies again from Friday.
At a formal ceremony attended by dignitaries including the embattled premier, her political rivals and the nation’s military heads, the king said the country ‘has been peaceful for a long time because everybody worked together’.
‘Every Thai should be aware of this and should perform their role for the benefit of the country, which is the stability and security of the country,’ he said in the speech broadcast on all television channels, without specifically mentioning recent unrest.
King Bhumibol, seen as a moral authority in the deeply divided nation, commonly delivers an annual address, but this year’s remarks were eagerly awaited for any message to the country’s opposing factions.
The streets near his seaside palace were awash with yellow Thursday as thousands of people wearing his signature colour turned out to celebrate in the central coastal town of Hua Hin, where he has lived since leaving hospital in August.
Kneeling supporters wept and shouted ‘Long live the King!’ as the royal convoy made a brief tour of the town’s streets before returning to the palace.
Any political action or violence during the public holiday would be seen as a serious sign of disrespect and demonstrators had tidied up a key rally site in Bangkok in preparation for the birthday festivities.
A huge portrait of the monarch had been erected at Democracy Monument near the capital’s Grand Palace, where the tub-thumping speeches of a month-long anti-government rally briefly gave way to cheerful celebrations.
Hundreds gathered to watch the official birthday ceremony on big screens, cheering loudly at the appearance of the king, the world’s longest-serving monarch.




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