Thailand coup still on table, says chief
BANGKOK — Thailand's powerful army chief on 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 center of this conflict.”
The deepening crisis took a turn for the worse on Thursday when protesters tried to overrun a Bangkok sports stadium where election candidates were gathering to draw lots for their positions on ballots. Masked protesters fired rocks from slingshots as they tried to break into the building to halt the process, while police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
Two people, including a police officer, were shot dead. Four election commissioners left the stadium by helicopter to escape the violence, some of the sharpest since a long-running dispute between Thailand's bitterly divided political factions intensified anew in November.
As the violence unfolded on Thursday, Thailand's election commission called for the Feb. 2 polls to be delayed. That was a blow to Yingluck, whose ruling party won a landslide during the last vote in 2011 and would likely dominate any new election, thanks to her overwhelming support in the country's north and northeast. The government rejected the call for the ballot to be delayed.
Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Friday that 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 street violence.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mines planted near plane crash site in Ukraine
- European Union adds Russian President Putin’s inner circle to sanctions list
- Landslide decimates Indian village, killing at least 17
- Fuel fire puts fight in Libya on hold
- Venezuela officials shut out from travel to U.S.
- Obama, European leaders agree to new Russia sanctions
- Reports include ‘aliens’ as origin of Russian holes
- Gaza’s only power plant taken out; utility official says attack ‘catastrophic’ for 1.8 million
- Strike on crowded Gaza area kills 16, wounds 150
- Karzai’s kin killed in suicide bombing
- Iraqi Shiite cleric beseeches Prime Minister al-Maliki to exit post