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Amid Pause in Protests, Thai King Calls for Unity

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."



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.

But 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."



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



But 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 Ms. 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 Mr. 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 say Mrs. Yingluck is doing the bidding of her exiled brother, despite her insistence that this is not the case.

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