I was taken completely aback when unexpectedly, this evening, His Majesty appeared on television. This is something we haven't seen for a very long time. As I was switching channels, I caught him in the middle of a speech. They were words of great import, spoken slowly and with great deliberation. The King was speaking about big issues: duty, integrity, and honesty. At one point, he said, "There are some people in this country who have forgotten to perform their duty," and he exhorted those he was addressing to set an example and "restore peace to the nation."
Now, as I had missed the beginning, I fully expected that the camera would zoom away to show the leaders of the red shirts and the government prostrating themselves at his feet. Only the camera didn't zoom away and later I figured out through context that the King was addressing a group of judges who had just been appointed and were about to take up their positions.
In the end, I don't think it really matters who was the "official" audience for these words. The message will clearly be seen as a message to the entire nation.
Last week, General Chavalit, allegedly closely associated with the red shirts and Thaksin, had publicly pleaded that His Majesty come forward and intervene, but his plea came with a thinly disguised threat: that the violence would become uncontrollable. The King is a constitutional monarch and considered to be above politics, and had he answered the general's request, it would have put him in the untenable position of appearing to take sides in a political dispute. Chavalit's gesture was widely criticized as putting undue pressure on the monarch — not because he petitioned the King — any citizen may do that — but because he made such a huge public display of doing so. meaning that being seen to have petitioned was the point — not the petition itself. In fact, this may well have been a crafty plan to prevent His Majesty from saying anything.
If so, the plan has failed because despite the difficulty of his position, a way has still been found for the King to tell the citizens of Thailand that core values like integrity, justice and truthfulness are the means by which peace can be restored.
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