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Thai King Voices 'Love' for Protesters

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, center left and Queen Suthida, center right wave to supporters in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 1, 2020.

In his first public comments on months of protests, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn expressed “love” for protesters, who have called for limits to his power.

“We love them all the same,” King Vajiralongkorn told a reporter from Channel 4 news. When asked if he was willing to compromise, the king responded, “Thailand is the land of compromise.”

Protests, largely led by students, have primarily called for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-Cha to step down. But the movement has also called for changes to the monarchy – an unprecedented move in a country where insulting the institution can lead to long prison sentences.

The king’s comments came as he met with counter protesters, dressed in yellow, showing their support for the monarchy. A few clashes have occurred between rival protests in recent weeks.

The demonstrations began in February when parliament announced it would dissolve a pro-democracy, largely young Future Forward party. Demonstrations were halted as the country locked down due to the coronavirus but later resumed despite limits on public gatherings.

In an interview with VOA Thai, former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun said he agrees with some of the movement’s demands but that he was wary of calls to reform the monarchy.