Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Thai army chief doesn’t rule out coup

Written by Pti | London | Posted: December 28, 2013 5:00 am

Thailand’s powerful army chief Friday issued his strongest call yet for the nation’s political rivals to overcome their bitter divide,refusing to rule out the possibility of a military coup as long as the conflict threatens to tear the country apart.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha made the comments one day after protesters trying to stop February elections battled with police in Bangkok in clashes that left two people dead and injured more than 140,one of the most violent days since the conflict began two months ago.

The crisis has seen Thailand wracked by political tensions in which demonstrators have sought to overthrow the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The army has staged 11 successful coups in the country’s history – the last against Yingluck’s brother in 2006 – so Prayuth’s words carry great weight.

Asked whether a military takeover was possible,Prayuth said simply,“That door is neither open nor closed… it will be determined by the situation.”

Protesters have lobbied for the army to intervene in the crisis,and their leader,Suthep Thaugsuban,has called on the military to take sides. Late last month,they forced their way onto the grounds of army headquarters to deliver a letter asking the military to support their campaign. Prayuth responded by insisting that the army would not take sides.

On Friday,he reiterated that stance,saying,“Please don’t bring the army into the centre of this conflict.”

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul Friday said he would ask the military to provide security for the elections.

Prayuth said the army had shown “red traffic lights to both sides,so things will calm down”,and called for an end to violence. “You ask,‘Who wins?’ Who wins?’ No one,” he said.

Still responding to the question of possible military intervention,he said,“Whether it is going to happen,time will tell.”

But he added: “We don’t want to overstep the bounds of our authority. We don’t want to use force. We try to use peaceful means,talks and meetings to solve the problem.’’

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