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Thai king speaks for first time during crisis

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by MziziMkavu, Apr 27, 2010.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    Ailing 82-year-old monarch fails to address chaos some call class warfare

    [​IMG]Reuters Tv / Reuters
    Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 82, speaks at a swearing-in ceremony for new judges in Bangkok on Monday. He made no direct statement on the country's political crisis.
    BANGKOK - Thailand's ailing king spoke publicly Monday for the first time since his country descended into political chaos, but the man seen by many as the best hope for securing a peaceful resolution failed to address the deadly crisis that has shut down parts of the capital.Speaking at the hospital where he has been for more than seven months, King Bhumibol Adulyadej told newly appointed judges that they should faithfully carry out their duties and help keep the country stable.
    "In the country, there might be people who neglect their duties, but you can set an example that there are those who perform their duties strictly and honestly," the 82-year-old king said.

    At least 26 people have been killed and nearly 1,000 wounded since anti-government protesters known as the Red Shirts began occupying parts of Bangkok in mid-March, closing down five-star hotels and shopping malls and devastating the country's vital tourism industry.
    "The king's words will be interpreted by some as a statement of support for those who have been arguing that the police and military have been failing in their duties to maintain peace, law and order," said Prof. Kevin Hewison, a Thai studies specialist at the University of North Carolina. "But as is often the case in recent times, his words can be interpreted in multiple ways."
    No clear statement
    The king's lack of a clear statement signaled he was not prepared to take a public role in resolving the crisis, as he did in 1973 when he stopped bloodshed during a student uprising and again in 1992 during antimilitary street protests. As a constitutional monarch, he has no formal political power, but the respect he commands makes him one of the country's few credible mediators.
    The U.S.-born Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, has been hospitalized since Sept. 19, when he was admitted with fatigue and loss of appetite. The palace has said he is recovering from a lung inflammation, but not explained why he has been hospitalized for so long.
    "For many, what may be more significant is yet another display of a king in declining health and the specter of succession adding to the politically chaotic times that seem set to drag on for some time," said Hewison, referring to unease about whether the king's heir-apparent, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, can keep the monarchy in its same exalted position.
    The government said Monday it hopes to resolve the problem peacefully, despite a breakdown in negotiations, but added it could not allow the protests to go on indefinitely.
    "We're required to keep peace and return the area to normalcy," government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.
    The Red Shirts consist largely of poor, rural supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-democracy activists who opposed the military coup that ousted him in 2006 on corruption allegations. The group — formally called the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship — believes that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government — backed by the urban elite — is illegitimate, having been helped into power by the country's powerful military.
    Red Shirts vs. Yellow Shirts
    The conflict has been characterized by some as class warfare, and a pro-establishment group known as the Yellow Shirts has demanded that authorities crack down on the demonstrators — even implying they might take matters into their own hands.
    "The government has the responsibility to protect the people, but instead shows its weakness and inability to enforce the law," Suriyasai Katasila, a leader of the Yellow Shirts, said Monday.
    The Yellow Shirts, formally known as the People's Alliance for Democracy, in 2008 took over the prime minister's office for three months and Bangkok's two airports for a week to try to force two pro-Thaksin prime ministers from office. Their self-appointed mission is to keep Thaksin from returning to power.
    Many Red Shirt supporters around and outside the capital tried Monday to prevent police reinforcements from moving into Bangkok.
    CONTINUED : Red shirt supporters block roads1 | 2 | Next >

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