King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand has called for “order and peace” in the country but silenced recent anti-government student protests that have called for reforms of the powerful monarchy, as he swore in a new locker by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The ceremony on Wednesday marked the king’s first public appearance since the almost never-before-seen talks in two student-led protests to limit the new powers that King Vajiralongkorn has gathered since he took the throne after his father’s death in 2016.
As head of state, the king gave his blessing to the new cabinet members and wished “good health and wisdom to have the strength to perform your duties according to your oaths”
He also expressed a wish “for the happiness of the people, the happiness of the people and for order and peace”.
He did not publicly acknowledge the student protests, some of which defied “les majeste” laws against insulting the monarchy, which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Wednesday’s induction of the new cabinet members follows the resignation last month of six ministers under Prayuth, amid the ruling party’s internal disputes as the government faces the growing protest movement.
Among the six new cabinet members are veteran bank director Predee Daochai as finance minister and Supattanapong Punmeechaow as energy minister.
The student protesters, who are demanding reforms of the monarchy, have also demanded the resignation of Prayuth’s government.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayuth had said the thousands of student Protestants “went too far” after some issued a 10-point call for reform of the monarchy, which is considered semi-divine in the country’s conservative culture.
The students’ new demands included a reversal of an order from 2019 that transferred two army units to the king’s personal commander, and a law from 2017 that gave him full control over the crown’s extensive property holdings.
It also called on the king to refrain from supporting any military takeovers in the future.
While the monarchy has refrained from taking a more aggressive response, it has been reported that it asked several media companies to remove all mentions of the demands made by the students.
So far, there have been no protest leaders accused under the Majesty Act, although two key leaders were arrested on charges including sedition and violations of coronavirus regulations at large gatherings before being released on bail.
Al Jazeera and news agencies