Events this week show that the Thai public still retains strong support for the monarchy but also wants to see more unity in politics and some negotiated resolution to the standoff between student-led protests and the government. 66% of people are not satisfied with the current Prime Minister General Prayut Chan ocha’s handling of the current crisis.
The presence of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his consort Queen Suthida at anniversary ceremonies for King Rama V or Chulalongkorn in Bangkok, on Friday, drew large crowds of fervent supporters and comes as a poll showed a large majority of Thai people do not agree with plans reform the institution of the monarchy.
A poll published on Sunday by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University with a large sample of over 5,700 people across the kingdom, showed that over 60% of the Thai public do not want the student-led protests to infringe on the monarchy.
The poll, which had mixed results for both sides of the political struggle, comes as supporters of the ruling government party, Palang Pracharat, are increasingly identifying themselves with those who express support for the royal institution.
The poll showed an even stronger majority calling for talks between the government and the protesters at over 72% and categorically rejected violence from either side.
66% disapprove of Prayut’s handling of the crisis
On Saturday night, the Thai Prime Minister stared down an ultimatum from the resurgent, student-led protests for his ouster leaving a stalemate situation with both sides, at this point, appearing unwilling to compromise.
However, the poll had some bad news for General Prayut showing that over 66% of the Thai public does not approve of his handling of the current political crisis.
Redshirt leader has consistently warned student leaders not to pursue calls for monarchial reform
Earlier, at the outset of the protests in July, veteran pro-democracy activist and Redshirt leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, Japtuporn Prompan, had warned the protest leaders against their present course relating to the monarchy.
On Friday night and Saturday in Bangkok, there were touching scenes near the Grand Palace in the centre of the city when Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida emerged from ceremonies commemorating the anniversary, on October 23rd, of Thai King Chulalongkorn or Rama V.
King Chulalongkorn, Thailand’s reforming monarch who forged closers links with the West
King Chulalongkorn is seen in Thailand as a great, reforming monarch and is still remembered affectionately in the kingdom, even in this era, with his portrait to be seen in many homes and offices.
The 23rd of October is known as Wan Piyamaharaj Day or King Chulalongkorn Day in memory of the Thai monarch who first ushered in liberal reforms in Thailand and who retained extensive links with European countries, in particular, the United Kingdom.
Enthusiastic crowds in yellow cheer the royal couple
On Friday, the present Thai King and his Queen laid a wreath at a statue erected to Rama V in the Royal Plaza.
On their walk back to the Supreme Court at the Dusit Palace near Rajdamnoen Road in Bangkok, the King and his consort encountered excited supporters and well-wishers.
Nearly all were wearing yellow and calling out ‘Long Live the King’ and other refrains long associated with the royal cause, such as ‘Keep fighting King’.
Videos and photos emerged from the scene and people shared their meetings with the royal couple.
Man’s joy at praise from King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida for his protest stand last week
In the course of the journey, Queen Suthida pointed out to the King one man who had attended a student protest earlier in the week and was widely covered on TV holding aloft a portrait in support of the monarchy.
‘This man held a poster amid the protesters. Thank you very much. I remember. Thank you so much,’ Queen Suthida informed the King who responded by walking towards the man in the crowd. ‘Very brave. Very brave. Very good. Thank you,’ he said.
The Thai man was overjoyed: ‘Long Live Your Majesty. I love you so much. Long Live your Majesty.’
He told the King and Queen that it was the happiest moment of his life after the king further expressed his appreciation. ‘We’re so proud of what you’ve done. Thank you so much,’ said the Queen.
After the royal couple walked off, the man is reported to have broken down in tears. ‘Their Majesties remember me!’, he cried out.
Thitiwat Tanagaroon, the man in question and reported to be a restaurant manager, has said he will frame the T-Shirt he was wearing on Friday night when speaking with news agency Reuters.
‘The king tapped his hand on my shoulder very hard when he said thank you. I will put the shirt I wore in a frame,’ the 49-year-old recalled.
King thanks loyal former PDRC leader who came out with his supporters to rally for the monarchy
During the walk, the royal couple also met a Mr Suvit Thongprasert once known as Luang Pu Buddha Isara who was a radical voice in the former yellow shirt protest organisation, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) which coordinated the massive and disruptive protests against the elected Pheu Thai government of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2013 and 2014.
These protests led ultimately to the 2014 army coup which ushered General Prayut into power as PM.
The King took some time to praise Mr Suvit on Friday for his activism in support of the monarchy which has been reawakened by the current student protests.
The presence of the King and Queen in Bangkok at the ceremonies at the end of last week for King Rama V and before that, at those for his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has focused on and emphasised the deep devotion that still exists towards the monarchy in Thailand in both the heart and the psyche of a large proportion of the Thai people.