BANGKOK – Army Commander-in-Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha reaffirmed the military’s neutral stand in the wake of the current political conflict but stressed that it could not abandon the people either.
While admitting that the conflict is of great concern, he said that the military could not take sides. He also pleaded parties in the conflict not to try to drag the military into the conflict.
He made clear that the responsibility of the military was to guide all the people of different political colours to safety. He also insisted that he was not ignorant of the situation as suggested by some critics but has tried the best he could to help out.
Regarding the current political conflict, the army chief maintained that the military could not interfere with the government but, at the same time, the military could not abandon the people “because there are people who sit in the middle and there are others who are ready to come out”.
As for the clashes Thursday at the Thai-Japanese youth centre, he said that it was necessary that such an incident would not be repeated. However, he noted that there were some minority elements who were violence-prone and who thought that if there was no violence they would not win or the conflict would never be resolved.
Referring to an incident in which a group of policemen were seen smashing a pick-up truck with their truncheons, General Prayuth said he believed the perpetrators represented the minority in the police force and pleaded with the police to exercise more self-restriant and not to not to be too emotional.
He stressed the need for proper investigations into all the violent incidents involving the anti-government protests be it the shooting at Ramkhamhaeng University or the violence at the youth centre.
He said that similar probe was also needed for the army crackdown on red-shirt protesters back in 2010 to clear the army’s image.
When asked by a reporter about the possibility of a coup, General Prayuth said:
“There is no closing or opening as far as a coup is concerned. Every situation can happen. Situation will be the key determining factor. But today the army needs morale support because everyone wants to adopt an appropriate role (to refrain) from using illegal power, force. Time will determine.”