Thai king rides Bangkok train to get closer to people in divided country

Another public appearance.

Belmont Lay | November 18, 2020, 01:24 PM

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Thailand’s king rode on Bangkok’s underground train to appear closer to the ground in a diplomatic gesture seen as trying to quell pro-democracy protesters demanding reforms to the all-powerful monarchy.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida boarded an empty carriage on Saturday, Nov. 14 as part of the inauguration of an extension to the Metropolitan Rapid Transit line in the capital.

The royals were seen sitting on gold cushioned seats and waving, photos released by the palace showed.

Officials in uniform were prostrating and crawling on red carpets on the ground, as per established formalities.

A large crowd of yellow-clad royalists greeted the couple outside the station.

Publicity outing

The train ride is the latest publicity outing for the normally elusive king.

As pro-democracy protests are ongoing, his appearances on the ground might be attempts to be more accessible to the public in Thailand.

The 68-year-old king ascended to the throne after the death of his long-reigning father in 2016, and has spent most of his time in Germany, only making rare visits to Thailand for ceremonies.

But it was only recently in the face of ongoing protests back home that the king did his first interview with a mainstream media outlet in years, where he called Thailand the “land of compromise”.

In October, the king patted the shoulder of a staunch royalist supporter and praised him for being “brave”.

Previous king went to the ground

The king’s PR campaign might not be able to placate young protesters who feel less connected to royalty as an institution.

On Saturday, demonstrators who oppose the monarch gathered at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument and turned their backs against a royal motorcade.

They also flashed the three-fingered salute from the The Hunger Games movies, which has become the de facto protest gesture.

During his reign, Vajiralongkorn's beloved late father Bhumibol Adulyadej made trips outside palace walls to greet supporters, sometimes in far-flung provinces.

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