Thai king calls nation ‘land of compromise’

Free Youth says the govt’s crackdown on demonstrations and arrests of dozens of activists think otherwise

BANGKOK • Facing the biggest anti-government protests in years, King Maha Vajiralongkorn called Thailand “the land of compromise” in a rare public comment after months of demonstrations in the South-East Asian nation.

The Thai monarch was responding to a question by the UK’s Channel 4 News on whether there’s room for compromise amid the protests as he met with supporters in a walkabout. More than 62% of participants in a poll published a week ago by Bangkok’s Suan Dusit University said discontent with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha was a key reason for the recent demonstrations.

Political uncertainties have risen in Thailand with the widespread protests, making Thai stock market the worst performer in Asia this year. Protesters are also pushing for a more democratic constitution and more accountability for the king.

While initially declining to comment on demands for more reforms, the monarch offered an olive branch to protesters. “We love them all the same,” he said of the demonstrators, repeating the line two more times.

Free Youth, one of the protest groups, said the government’s crackdown on demonstrations and arrests of dozens of activists “do not suggest this is a land of compromise”.

Prayuth told reporters last Friday that “no one wants to stage a coup” when asked about rumours and suggestions by some protesters of possible military action to replace him. “We never think about this. We need to be careful and prevent the situation from escalating.”

The former army chief has run Thailand for over six years, having taken power himself in a 2014 coup and returning as premier after elections last year under a constitution produced by his military regime. — Bloomberg