News / Asia

    Amid Pause in Protests, Thai King Calls for Unity

    • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, along with his family, arrive at Klai Kangwon Palace before a ceremony in celebration of the king's 86th birthday in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Dec. 5, 2013.
    • Well-wishers wave flags next to a picture of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as they gather to celebrate his 86th birthday near Klai Kangwon Palace, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Dec. 5, 2013.
    • Thai people dressed in the royal color of yellow cheer as they watch their King Bhumibol Adulyadej make a speech on a giant screen, on his 86th birthday at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Dec. 5, 2013.
    • Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej reads a statement at Klai Kangwon Palace during a ceremony in celebration of his 86th birthday in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Dec. 5, 2013. (Thailand's Royal Household Bureau)
    • Thai royal guards march during a parade to celebrate Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 86th birthday at Klai Kangwon Palace, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Dec. 5, 2013.
    • Thai school boys celebrate King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 86th birthday, in Bangkok, Dec. 5, 2013.
    • An elderly man listens to King Bhumibol Adulyadej make a speech on a giant screen, on the king's 86th birthday at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Dec. 5, 2013.
    VOA News
    Thailand's revered monarch called on the Thai people to "support each other for the sake of the country," during his annual birthday address to the nation.

    King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turns 86 Thursday, spoke as opposition protesters paused their efforts aimed at overthrowing the government.

    The king, who was released from the hospital earlier this year after a four-year stay, spoke slowly as he read his address at his seaside palace in Hua Hin.

    "All Thais should realize this point a lot and behave and perform our duties accordingly and our duty for the benefit of the public for stability and security for our nation of Thailand," he said.

    • An anti-government protester throws back a tear gas canister fired by riot police in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 1, 2013.
    • An anti-government protester cleans his eyes with salt water solution after riot police fired tear gas to the protesters in Bangkok.
    • Police line up to thwart any attempt to occupy their headquarters in Bangkok. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • An anti-government protester gets ready to throw back a tear gas canister fired by riot police in Bangkok.
    • Anti-government protesters take cover during clashes with police near the Government house in Bangkok.
    • Anti-government protesters use self-made barricade against the water cannons and tear gas fired by riot police in Bangkok.
    • Police move behind their shields as they clash with anti-government protesters near the Government house in Bangkok.
    • An anti-government protester atop a loudspeaker truck calling on the prime minister to "get out" in Bangkok. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • Police behind razor wire at their headquarters in Bangkok (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • Those protesting want to rid the country of what they say is the lingering influence of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • A crowd listening to an anti-government speech at and above a major Bangkok intersection (Steve Herman/VOA)
    • Tens of thousands take to Bangkok's streets demanding the prime minister's ouster. (Steve Herman/VOA)

    The weeks-old protests were stopped out of respect for the monarch, who is widely revered as a unifying figure in the politically polarized nation.

    Nonetheless, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban pledged to continue the fight Friday, vowing to not back down until Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra resigns and turns over control to an unelected council.
     
    "Tomorrow, the people's movement will continue in order to eradicate the Thaksin regime from Thailand and return the power to the people," said Suthep.

    Fears of widespread violence were raised late last week when at least four people were killed and scores wounded in the protests.

    However, tensions eased Tuesday after police backed down, saying they had been ordered to avoid confrontation with the protesters, whose strategy is to occupy government buildings.

    The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a 2006 military coup.

    The latest demonstrations were triggered several weeks ago by an amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return home and avoid a two-year jail term for corruption. The Senate rejected the bill but protests have continued.

    Many opposition members feel Yingluck is doing the bidding of her exiled brother, despite her insistence that this is not the case.

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