Thailand’s anti-government protesters said they will hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday to honour the revered monarch, who has been in hospital since September.
The “Red Shirts” loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra have been demonstrating since March 14, pushing for snap elections to replace a government they criticise as elitist and undemocratic.
“Tomorrow we will light candles at eight o’clock in the evening to bless His Majesty the King’s good health and to show our loyalty to the monarchy,” Reds leader Jatuporn Prompan said Tuesday.
Thaksin, who lives in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, has been accused by his critics of disloyalty to King Bhumibol Adulyadej — a grave offence in Thailand, where the monarch is regarded by many as a demi-god.
The 82-year-old, who is the world’s longest-reigning monarch, was admitted to hospital on September 19 with a lung infection and fever. He has appeared in public several times since then.
The protesters are also planning a rally on Saturday which they say will “shut down” Bangkok and exceed the parade they mounted in the capital last weekend which drew 65,000 people in a noisy but peaceful procession.
The Reds have rejected prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s offers of talks with a junior minister, saying they will only speak with the premier and only to discuss the dissolution of the lower house.
Jatuporn played down comments from Thaksin’s brother, who reportedly said he could act as a go-between to negotiate talks aimed at ending the street protests, which threaten to damage Thailand’s image and economy.
“Thaksin’s brother gave his private comments, it does not relate to the Red Shirts and what we call for again today is the dissolution of the house,” Jatuporn said.
The Reds say the government is illegitimate as it came to power with army backing via a parliamentary vote in December 2008 after a court decision ousted Thaksin’s allies from power.
The ruling brought an end to a blockade of Bangkok’s airports by rival, royalist “Yellow Shirts”.