Bangkok – Thai army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday warned of the risk of a civil war if the political conflict continues in Thailand, and proposed the formation of a people’s assembly composed of “all colors” to help heal the nation’s divisions, according to reports.
Gen Prayuth said he was deeply concerned about the political divisions, saying “We must not look at the situation in Bangkok alone, but see what is happening in the provinces. The division is in all tambons and the situation could trigger a civil war,” he was quoted as saying.
The army chief emphasized that his idea of a people’s assembly would have little in common with anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s proposed “people’s council”, because it would not be organized by any conflicting group.
“The people’s assembly must not be organised or sponsored by any conflicting group, as it would not be accepted by the other side,” he said.
“It must be from a neutral group and comprise non-core representatives of all colours, and all colour leaders must be excluded.”
“Currently, no matter what proposal is made by a conflicting side, it will be rejected by the other side,” he noted, according to a Bangkok Post report.
He said his idea is that representatives from each conflicting group could list how they feel they have been unjustly treated, and then could discuss how to settle their differences.
The army chief was speaking after a meeting of the Defence Council, chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is also caretaker Defence Minister.
When asked whether the armed forces would act as the neutral party, Gen Prayuth said, “I don’t think they’d listen to me. They must decide themselves.”
The army chief strongly denied that the military had pressured caretaker Prime Minster Yingluck to resign, and also ruled out any possibility that the army would stage a coup, telling reporters “Don’t talk about [a coup] again with me,” said reports.
Anti-government protesters have continued with their rallies, especially in Bangkok, since early November. The protests initially started in opposition to an amnesty bill passed by the ruling Pheu Thai party-controlled House of Representatives, but soon became determined to force the government to step down.
After the prime minister dissolved the House and an election date of February 2 was set, the protesters demanded reforms be enacted prior to the next election, which is expected to be won again by the Pheu Thai Party, which the protesters claim is controlled by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Protest leaders have loudly declared their intention to rid Thailand of the “Thaksin regime” once and for all.