Thai­land’s army moves to al­lay coup fears

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - BANGKOK—

Thai­land’s pow­er­ful but politi­cized army sought to ease fears, 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 all­too-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 Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra, who they ac­cuse of be­ing a pup­pet of her self-ex­iled brother and for­mer pre­mier, Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra.

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 Winthai Suwa­ree 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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