Thai Protests Continue as King Marks Anniversary on Throne

Thai Protests Continue as King Marks Anniversary on Throne
# 06 May 2010 04:21 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Anti-government protesters remained defiant in their fortified encampment here on Wednesday as the country’s king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, made a rare outing to mark six decades since his coronation, APA reports quoting “The New York Times”.
The day captured the country’s dueling preoccupations: the revered 82-year-old king’s failing health — after a nationally televised ceremony he returned to the hospital where he has been under care since September — and the protests that have paralyzed Bangkok’s main commercial district and underlined deep fractures in Thai society.
Although the protesters, mainly farmers and the urban poor, have agreed to a “reconciliation plan” proposed Monday by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, they are now demanding a date for the dissolution of Parliament. Many protesters say they are tired and eager to return home, but the leaders of the movement have not made it clear when they will end the protest, which has shut the city’s major shopping malls, office buildings and a number of luxury hotels.
The protesters were one of two crowds on the streets of Bangkok on Wednesday. Hundreds of well-wishers cheered the long line of Mercedes sedans in the king’s motorcade, with some subjects dropping to their knees.
When the motorcade reached the Grand Palace, the king was wheeled into the bright sunshine by attendants who shielded him with a yellow parasol. He entered a gilded hall inside the grounds filled with chanting Buddhist monks, members of the royal family, and the country’s leaders, including the prime minister, the head of the army, and the head of the king’s privy council.
From a seat that resembled a small throne, the king presided over a formal ceremony replete with rituals long followed by his Chakri dynasty. The world’s longest-reigning monarch, he ascended to the throne in 1946 and was crowned four years later.
East of the Grand Palace, at the protesters’ encampment, there was a decidedly different scene. Protesters chanted slogans, danced and dozed in their makeshift tents along boulevards that in many places reeked of accumulated garbage.
Protest leaders had marked Coronation Day with their own ceremony earlier Wednesday, but by the time the king’s motorcade was shown on national television, the protesters had moved on to their own program.
On the protest stage, erected in the middle of what is normally one of the city’s busiest intersections, an activist, Wisa Kantap, spoke excitedly to a cheering crowd of several thousand protesters.
“Whatever they do,” he said, referring to the government, “they will never be victorious over the people. The power of the common man must be the main power in this land.”
Relatives of 25 protesters killed in a failed April 10 crackdown then told their stories at a news conference organized by protest leaders. The circumstances of the deaths are still under investigation, especially the involvement of mysterious gunmen clad in black who circulated during the crackdown.
“Our heroes fought for real democracy,” said Weng Tojirakarn, one of the protest leaders.