Thousands of cyclists honor Thai king amid crackdown on royal critics

BANGKOK Thousands of cyclists streamed by means of Bangkok on Friday to honor Thailand’s revered but ailing king in an outpouring of loyalty that comes against a backdrop of an unprecedented crackdown on these perceived as vital of the monarchy.

“Bike For Dad” is part of weeks of celebrations marking the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, who turned 88 on Dec. 5.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the king’s only son and heir, led a throng of cyclists on a 29 km (18 miles) route beginning in Bangkok’s old quarter.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and a number of cabinet ministers joined the procession of yellow-shirted riders. Yellow is the colour that represents the king.

“A lot of folks want to share this moment to send a sign to our king that we all enjoy him extremely much,” said Nusara Anuntavanichaya, 44, who sat with her six-year-old daughter on the route, along with thousands of yellow-clad spectators.

Numerous Thais see the king as a unifying figure in a nation that has suffered bouts of violent upheaval more than the past decade as rival power networks, one closely associated with the royalist military, vie to run the nation.

The king is in frail wellness and has not been seen in public since Sept. 1. He is in a Bangkok hospital, where he has spent considerably of the past six years, and exactly where medical doctors in August treated him for what the Royal Household Bureau known as “water on the brain”, or hydrocephalus.

The cyclists passed the hospital on their route.

The king is a constitutional monarch, with no formal political powers, and lengthy wielded immense influence.

The crown prince does not command the identical devotion his father does, top to apprehension about the succession. He smiled at cheering crowds as he cycled previous on Friday.

The military, since seizing power in a May 2014 coup, has zealously pursued anybody perceived to have defamed the royals, which includes senior military and police officers, below draconian lese majeste, or royal insult, laws.

Two suspects have died in military custody throughout a police investigation of corruption involving “Bike For Dad” and yet another cycling event aimed at celebrating the royals.

Police mentioned final week they had launched an inquiry into U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies following he criticized “lengthy and unprecedented” jail sentences for those identified guilty of lese majeste.

Authorities stated about 30,000 police and soldiers had been on duty for the bike ride, which comes four months following a bomb at a city shrine killed 20 individuals.

Police said a people-smuggling gang angry about a crackdown was accountable. The blast came a day right after a “Bike For Mom” cycling occasion in honor of Queen Sirikit.

Police stated on Friday they had arrested a group of people who planned to “create a disturbance on an crucial day.”

They did not elaborate but Prayuth stated authorities had foiled a plot to assassinate senior government officials at the procession.

(Further reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Aukkarapon Niyomyat Editing by Robert Birsel)

Agen Sabung Ayam