A pre-recorded address by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha was broadcast on Wednesday night as thousands of young protesters marched on the Government House, calling for a parliamentary solution to the political impasse and national reconciliation following eight straight days of protests across Thailand.
By the time the address was aired, the demonstrators arriving 3 km from Victory Monument had already reached a roundabout near Government House, decreasing their chances of defusing the immediate situation.
The main demands of the demonstrators are for Prayuth and his government to resign, revise the current draft military constitution, and reform the monarchy. The monarchy's criticism is unprecedented; it is an institution that until recent months was considered untouchable.
"To de-escalate this situation, I will make the first move," Prayuth said. "I am currently preparing to lift the state of serious emergency in Bangkok and if there are no violent incidents, I will do so promptly."
Among the immediate demands of the protestors were lifting the state of emergency and releasing imprisoned student leaders. Two students and a human rights lawyer who had been most outspoken in their criticisms of the monarchy were immediately re-arrested on fresh charges, although 19 leaders were released on Monday. Today the government, backed down on orders to shut down five online news channels, including Voice TV.
For the last six years, Thailand's premier has been an often bluntly spoken and irascible former army chief who seized power in a 2014 coup. Prayuth was unusually conciliatory in the address, with a reputation for flip-flopping on election dates and constitution promises: "The protesters have made their voices and opinions heard," he said. "It is now time for them, through their representatives in parliament, to let their views be reconciled with the views of other segments of Thai society."
"As a national leader, my duty is to take care of the needs of everyone in this country and sometimes try to balance very different and very extreme views so that we can all live together in this single land that belongs to all of us and that we all love," he said.
Prayuth seemed to admit that tensions throughout the nation have risen dangerously high. "We must now step back from the edge of the slippery slope that can easily slide into chaos, where all sides lose control of the situation, where emotions take over our better judgment, violence engenders more violence, and we can end up in a situation where the whole country suffers, as history has shown us many times," he said.
Thousands of royalist Yellow Shirts took to the streets of the Sungai Kolok district earlier that day, a Malaysian border crossing in the southernmost province of Narathiwat.
The march was the biggest demonstration of opposition to the daily youth-led protests held in Bangkok and the provinces so far.
Royalists started gathering on Oct. 14 in some places, but the size and frequency of pro-democracy turnouts have not been achieved.
Announced by organizers at 3 p.m. A major pro-democracy rally from 4 p.m. at the Victory Monument in central Bangkok Another one is at Ramkamhaeng University in the northeastern part of the city.
They later announced the march from Victory Monument to Government House along a barricaded route, from where Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha was due to address the nation at 7 p.m.
Dr. Rienthong Nanna, a prominent royalist and director of Mongkulwattana Hospital, recently posted on Facebook, "Until now, the monarch has never caused any harm to the Thai people." "Why do they call for the reform of the monarchy?"
Yellow Shirts have become more active against pro-democracy groups after a slow start, prompting concerns about confrontations, social disorder, and further economic damage.
There was also a smaller gathering in the province of Chonburi on Tuesday near the resort town of Pattaya, more than 100 kilometers from the capital. A crowd of 500 people formed in the northern city of Lampang to call for the monarchy to be respected.
An analyst at KGI Securities told Nikkei Asia, "It's okay if both sides want to stage protests to express their political views peacefully." "It will not be all right, and if there are a clash and violence, it will have a very large impact on the economy."
Police have been closely watching protests in Bangkok to prevent potential confrontations, but at very short notice, rally sites are revealed on social media, sometimes bringing them close to pockets of royalist supporters.