ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Thai military urges Songkran negotiations
Publication Date : 02-04-2014
Thailand's military still wants all parties involved in the current political conflict to talk to each other, and prevent violence, Royal Thai Air force Commander-in-Chief ACM Prajin Juntong said in an exclusive interview with Nation Multimedia Group editor-in-chief Thepchai Yong.
He said the Songkran festival could be a good timing for the negotiations.
The military does not rule out staging a coup because it does not know if the political crisis facing the country will end peacefully as it wishes, Prajin said.
"The military has to be pessimistic and prepare for unfortunate eventualities. We have selected several options for action in light of events that could affect national security," he said.
Prajin, who will retire in six months, made the remark in response to Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha's stance against ruling out a military coup.
He said the Armed Forces were united over their stance and would act together in the same direction. He was confident that none of the military forces had the intention of staging a coup because they had learnt their lesson [from the past], understood the country's circumstances and world attitudes in regard to democracy. "We do not want Thais or the world community to look down on us as being ignorant about the context of democracy in the modern world," he said.
Commenting on a call by some groups for the military to exercise its power to help bring about a swift solution to the political deadlock, Prajin said some other groups did not want the military to interfere in politics and to remain neutral.
"We have to monitor the present political situation and evaluate. Actually we want to ask the public and the civic sector: what do they want the military to do? We have carried out our security duties as we are ordered. We have to abide by several laws," he said.
Prajin said it was time leaders of rival political camps negotiated because the prolonged political struggle had greatly affected the country, economically, socially and politically. "Conflicts will rise if there are no talks. No negotiation means using arms to fight in order to win. If we do not want to see losses, we have to talk," he said, pointing to the casualties that occurred in 2009 and 2010 from clashes.
"Songkran is a good time for every party to talk and find solutions," he said, though he admitted it is possible that political temperatures would rise in April as independent agencies finalise their checks against the government.
Late last year, commanders of the three military forces stepped in - as Prajin put it - at a time of possible confrontation between rival camps. They held talks between caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban.
Some groups, however, criticised the military's moves as interference in politics, though they defended themselves, saying they were only acting as mediators.
Prajin said during last year's talks, the military leaders had not only listened to Yingluck and Suthep but also raised questions. However, he said, the military did not get clear answers from either of them.