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Thailand’s Army Moves to Allay Coup Fears

Thai police officers gather at the Royal Plaza near the Government House in Bangkok

Bangkok –  Thailand’s powerful but politicized army sought to ease fears on Monday it might step in to resolve a festering political crisis, while anti-government protesters entrenched positions around Bangkok as they seek to disrupt a February election. The latest round of an all-too-familiar political conflict in Thailand has dragged on for weeks. It flared last week into deadly clashes between police and protesters outside a stadium where registration for the February 2 poll was under way and at other rally sites around the Thai capital.

The head of the military added to the growing sense of unease on Thursday when he refused to rule out a coup after those clashes. A policeman and a protester were killed when an unidentified gunman opened fire, and scores were wounded in the clashes. The demonstrators are determined to topple Prime Minister YingluckShinawatra, who they accuse of being a puppet of her self-exiled brother and former premier, ThaksinShinawatra.

Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha said after Thursday’s clashes that “the door was neither open nor closed” on a coup, and social media across Thailand has buzzed with rumors of a coup ever since. Army spokesman WinthaiSuwaree sought to play down those fears, telling reporters on Monday that the rumors were causing “confusion and speculation”.

“The army would like to insist there’s no secret meetings or any operations by the military as speculated,” Winthai said. Until last week, the military had sought to remain aloof from the conflict, which represents years of rivalry between Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment and the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin in the populous north and northeast. (Reuters)

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