King unites rivals in Thailand

Thais put aside their political
animosity to honour the country’s ailing monarch on the 60th anniversary of his
coronation, and his rare public appearance inspired thousands lining the
streets to chant “Long Live the King!”

The highly revered King Bhumibol
Adulyadej emerged in a wheelchair from a Bangkok hospital to preside over the
ceremonies. The 82-year-old king, the world’s longest reigning monarch, has
been hospitalized for the past nine months with what the palace initially
described as a lung inflammation.

The monarch made no comment on the
paralyzing stalemate pitting Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government
against protesters who have occupied parts of Bangkok and built barricades over
the past eight weeks to demand the premier’s resignation. Clashes with soldiers
and other violence have killed 27 people and injured nearly 1,000.

Many Thais had hoped that the king,
who ascended the throne in 1946 but was officially crowned on 5 May 1950, might
broker a peaceful solution to the crisis, as he did in 1973 when he stopped
bloodshed during a student uprising and again in 1992 during antimilitary
street protests.

The king has not publicly discussed
the crisis. Still, Abhisit and the anti-government Red Shirt protesters have
edged closer to a compromise in the past few days.

While an immediate end to the
crisis was not expected, representatives of both sides said Wednesday’s
celebration of Coronation Day should be used to further national reconciliation.

g power illegitimately through
back-room deals and military pressure on legislators.

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