Bangkok — Thailand’s military leaders declined protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s invitation to side with the anti-government protesters yesterday in the country’s ongoing political crisis.
Mr. Suthep and other core members of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) met with the military chiefs at the armed forces headquarters, with Suthep urging the army “to be a hero by siding with the people”.
The military’s top brass, who were not in uniform at the meeting, listened politely, but declined to be drawn into the political fight.
Supreme Commander Gen Tanasak Patimapragorn admitted he had heard Mr Suthep’s speeches at rallies but “didn’t understand them”. “We, in the armed forces, follow rules. We are trained as military, we are not good in politics, he said.
Gen Tanasak said it was his view that “the best way to solve the problem is through negotiation”, adding that “neutral observers should oversee the election and make sure it takes place on Feb 2”.
When Gen Tanasak asked Mr. Suthep how the crisis could be solved in a fair and just manner, Suthep replied that the easiest way is for caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.
Suthep added that “I believe that the army in the past would bring in tanks and stage a coup but you’re a new generation and you wouldn’t go that, but we want the army to be a hero by siding with the people,” according to a Bangkok Post report.
He said he wanted the prime minister to resign before the election, creating a power vacuum that could be filled by his proposed people’s council.
“I tried to finish the game earlier, but the government held onto power, so I am waiting for your decision,” Suthep told his audience.
Suthep said the PDRC’s main objectives were to create an election system free of vote-buying and to introduce stricter laws against corruption.
He also said that if the prime minister does not resign the protesters will continue their campaign of civil disobedience.
Representatives of academics, state agencies, businesspeople and others were invited to the meeting, but no government representatives or ruling Pheu Thai Party members attended.
Thailand’s military has staged some 18 coups or attempted coups since the absolute monarchy ended in 1932, the last one being in 2006 when it overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s government. That coup has resulted in repeated street protests and political turmoil ever since.