Thai king calls for unity and stability on his 85th birthday
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej yesterday celebrated his 85th birthday with a brief address to a crowd of 200,000, appealing for the nation's unity and stability. With the country still reeling from a deep political crisis, the old monarch-who plays no political role but is seen as a unifying figure-greeted the crowd and delivered his short speech, something he rarely does these days.
In the Royal Plaza, hundreds of thousands of people wearing the royal yellow stood or carrying items in that colour greeted and paid homage to the sovereign, seen by many in Thailand as almost a demigod.
The king thanked his subjects for taking part in the celebrations and for "your kindness," which "is key to bringing unity to the people and the nation."
Speaking from the balcony at the Anantasamakom Throne Hall in front of the Royal Plaza, Bhumibol Adulyadej reminded his subjects to be "virtuous" because with virtue there is "hope" for a better future. "No matter what situation the country finds itself in, it will be safe and [it will] retain its stability."
In addition to the king's subjects, the country's top political and military leaders attended the ceremony, including Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, sister to billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister himself forced into exile after he was convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to two years in jail.
Chants of "Long live the king!" were heard throughout the ceremony. After spending 66 years on the throne, he is the longest-serving monarch in the world.
However, clouds are massing over his kingdom. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn does not command the same respect and affection as his father.
What is more, Thailand is in the grip of a long-running political crisis, which might lead to a constitutional crisis between supporters of the monarchy and those who prefer a presidential system.