Thai PM urges moviegoers to respect King during anthem

A person holds a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand, as royalists await the arrival of the royal couple, in Bangkok, Thailand, November 25, 2020. REUTERS / Chalinee Thirasupa / File Photo

BANGKOK, Nov. 11 (Reuters) – Thailand’s prime minister on Thursday urged moviegoers not to abandon a decades-old tradition of standing in droves to respect the country’s mighty king during the royal anthem that is played before every movie.

The comments came as King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 69, reportedly visited Germany on his first documented trip abroad since pro-democracy protests last year turned into a once unthinkable open criticism. of the monarchy, in particular by questioning his prolonged absences from Thailand.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has expressed concern that some Thais are now “afraid” to run for the royal anthem, the latest sign of change in a kingdom where the monarch is constitutionally consecrated to be held in “revered worship. “.

“I worry about those who want to stand up, but are afraid to do so because they don’t want to be intimidated. It takes courage to stand up,” Prayuth said in a speech at National Defense College.

In theaters across the country, moviegoers have stood for decades as the Royal Anthem is played, accompanied by a video of the monarch’s accomplishments, just before the films start.

But lately, many have been observed sitting still.

The Thai government on Wednesday also defended laws that punish defamation of the monarchy with a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, as United Nations member states expressed concern over the rights of the man.

Since the protests began last year, at least 156 people have been charged under the Royal Insults Act, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group.

Among the protesters’ complaints were the new powers King Vajiralongkorn has accumulated – including direct control of the crown’s vast fortune and command of two army units – as well as an extended stay abroad since. his accession to the throne in 2016 after the death of his much revered father.

This week, King Vajiralongkorn and his entourage were seen at an airport hotel outside Munich, German tabloid Bild reported on Wednesday.

It was not known how long he would stay in Germany.

The king traditionally presides over an elaborate Buddhist ceremony in Bangkok that is scheduled for later in November.

The Royal Palace could not be reached for comment on Thursday and never responded to questions about the king’s stay abroad. He has repeatedly declined to comment on the protests.

Report from the Bangkok office. Additional reporting by Maria Sheahan in Berlin; Editing by Kay Johnson and Sanjeev Miglani

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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