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Thai army chief rules out military intervention to end crisis

Publication Date : 25-02-2014

 

As the growing violence in Bangkok stoked fears of military intervention, Thai army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha went on national television to stress that soldiers were not the solution to Thailand's four-month-old political crisis.

"If we use the military, how can we be sure that the situation will end peacefully?" he asked on Monday, while urging the caretaker government to quickly nab the culprits behind the weekend's violent attacks.

General Prayuth made the comments in response to demands from protesters who accused the government of masterminding the attacks near protest rally sites. The attacks killed four people, including three children.

The protesters have repeatedly urged the military - which has attempted no fewer than 18 coups in the past century - to help topple the government.

At least 20 people, including policemen, have been killed and more than 600 injured since anti-government protesters first took to the streets in late October.

Backed by the urban middle class, old money as well as royalist elites, they are demanding that caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra step down to make way for an unelected "people's council" to enact reforms.

Although the numbers on the streets have dwindled, the movement's position has been bolstered by a civil court ruling last week that essentially stripped away most of the powers wielded by state security officials under the state of emergency in place in Bangkok since the middle of last month.

On Monday, a six-year-old girl died of injuries suffered in a grenade attack that also killed her four-year-old brother on Sunday near the protest rally site in downtown Bangkok.

Their deaths came after a five-year-old girl died after getting caught in a grenade and gun attack on Saturday night in eastern Trat province.

Last night, a grenade landed in a house near the headquarters of the opposition Democrat Party. Many of its supporters are backing the anti-government campaign.

Protesters, who accuse Ms Yingluck of being a proxy of her brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, blocked February 2 elections that would have returned her to power, and are also blockading key intersections in Bangkok.

While it is not yet clear who are behind the attacks, the United Nations Children's Fund yesterday called for children to be kept away from the protest sites. UN chief Ban Ki Moon, through a spokesman, condemned the violence and urged all parties to "engage in meaningful dialogue toward ending the crisis".

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who has refused to negotiate with Yingluck, last week called on followers to hound her out of every temporary office she uses as well as to surround businesses linked to her family to put financial pressure on her.

"Had Yingluck Shinawatra resigned a while ago, this would never have come to pass. But her stubborn insistence on remaining in office means we have no other choice," Suthep said on Sunday.

Yingluck, who was in Saraburi province on Monday, again rejected calls to step down.

"I have a duty… to sustain this democracy until the next government (is put in place)," she told reporters, but added that "it's time for all sides to talk to each other".


 

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