The man whom the Thai king stopped to talk to briefly has tattooed on his arm the king's words of praise to him.
King is god to him
Back in October, the 50-year-old restaurant manager, Thitiwat Tanagaroon, appeared in the media spotlight for being praised by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
It was rare for the royals to interact directly with civilians.
Queen Suthida had pointed the restaurant manager out to the king while they were out to greet supporters outside Dusit Royal Palace.
Thitiwat had caught her attention as he had earlier held up a portrait of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej while facing off against pro-democracy protesters.
During the rare and brief encounter, the king had told him: "Very well done, very brave, I thank you."
Thitiwat told Reuters the love he had for the king is the same love he felt for his father and mother.
"For me, the monarchy is god," he said.
Shifting attitudes towards the monarchy
While it was traditionally taboo to criticise the monarchy as they are deeply revered in Thai society, young Thais are now openly speaking up, defying the tough lese-majeste law that outlaws insults against the king.
Commenting on the changing attitudes towards the monarchy among the youth, 23-year-old protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree said it was because they could see that the king is human, not a god.
Protesters disagreed with Thitiwat as well.
Responding to Thitiwat's comments, a Twitter user said while he had no problem with royalists worshipping the monarchy as their gods, he felt the citizens had the right to criticise the monarchy too as they are all taxpayers supporting the luxurious lifestyle of the monarchs.
สำหรับคุณธิติวัฒน์ “The monarchy is god.” ผมไม่มีปัญหาเลยนะ และเชื่อว่ามีคนคิดแบบเขาอีกเยอะ แต่ปัญหาคือ พระเจ้าของคุณไม่ได้ดำรงอยู่ด้วยภาษีของคุณกลุ่มเดียว เราทุกคนจ่ายภาษีให้พระเจ้าของคุณ เราจึงมีสิทธิวิจารณ์ครับ https://t.co/KE2THRQDQh— Pipob (@pipob69) November 12, 2020
Had not expected to be praised by the king
Thitiwat told Reuters he had never expected to be commended by the king, nor face online attacks after the incident went viral.
He claimed that while there are many people who love and worship the monarchy, they are afraid to show their support openly as they would get harassed.
Protesters had swarmed his restaurant's online profile and given it poor ratings, causing it to drop from 4.8 stars to just 1, though business has picked up recently as more royalists started patronising his restaurant.
But protesters claimed they were harassed too.
Tattep said pro-democracy protesters had suffered worse in recent years, such as being prosecuted, followed, harassed, and put into choke holds.
Still, he condemned both sides for harassing the other, saying "there has to be dialogue".
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Top image via Thitiwat Tanagaroon/Facebook