June 9, 2006

Thai king calls for unity at his Diamond Jubilee

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Revered King Bhumibol Aduljadej called
for national unity on Friday at joyous celebrations of his
Diamond Jubilee as Thais put a deep political crisis on hold.

King Bhumibol told a crowd in Bangkok's Royal Plaza --
estimated by police at one million and many millions more glued
to their televisions around the country -- to think and act in
good faith and work for the good of the nation.

"As long as Thais can still synchronize their thoughts,
minds and behaviors for the good of the country, we can be
assured the nation will continue to prosper," the bespectacled
monarch said from a balcony of the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall.

"Therefore I would like to ask everyone here to keep this
good virtue and continuously pass it on for the prosperity of
the country," said the 78-year-old king, clad in an ornate coat
of gold thread, 60 years after his coronation.

When he finished his five-minute speech, the genuinely
adored monarch was rocked by a wave of sound as the crowd,
which stretched 3 km (2 miles), shouted "Long Live His

Some broke down in tears as the king, Queen Sirikit
alongside him, was moved visibly by the sound from the crowd,
many of whom arrived in the early hours to stake out a good
place to see him.

"This is a very auspicious opportunity," said Chom
Taenglek, 75, who arrived at dawn. "I would like to see all
Thais sacrifice and do good for the country and our king, whom
everyone should follow as a role model."

Like almost everyone else in Bangkok, Chom wore a yellow
shirt, the color of the king's birthday, and the crowd dwarfed
the number of protesters who gathered in the same place earlier
this year calling on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to quit.


But reverence for the quiet-spoken monarch may be the only
sentiment many Thais currently share.

"There are a lot of unsolved and unresolved issues in the
political arena and this temporary truce should not be taken as
an indication that things have quietened down," said
Christopher Bruton of Bangkok-based Dataconsult.

After months of street protests calling for his head,
Thaksin called a snap poll in April, which was boycotted by the
main opposition. The election failed to return a valid
parliament and later was declared unlawful.

The intense bickering faded as the Diamond Jubilee neared,
every politician wary of acting inappropriately and losing
support. It will crank up again once the celebrations are over.

But on Friday, Thais prepared for a four-day holiday
weekend and with royalty from 25 nations heading to help
celebrate the jubilee.

Trade on the stock market slowed to a trickle.

"The square root of nada is being traded on this market,"
said one foreign trader, using the Spanish word for nothing as
he watched golf on television.

The festivities include a gala dinner, a spectacular royal
barge procession manned by up to 2,500 navy officers and the
release of 25,000 prisoners serving jail time for petty crimes.

Thais are not missing out on the opportunity to party. Tens
of thousands are expected to watch fireworks marking the
celebration on Friday night.

(Additional reporting by Darren Schuettler, Tanny Chia,
Pracha Hariraksapitak and Chawadee Nualkhair)