Apirat orders vigilance for election
Army chief Apirat Kongsompong has ordered all unit commanders to keep a close eye on security ahead of the March 24 election.
Gen Apirat told the commanders the political situation would become more intense as the poll draws nearer, according to deputy army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong.
Col Sirichan said the army chief believes that all the commanders are aware of the political situation and would be able to take care of security in their designated areas.
A military source said Gen Apirat instructed the officers to monitor security after the Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, army spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree leapt to defend Gen Apirat, who has recently come under a barrage of criticism from politicians.
Gen Apirat, he said, exercised restraint and did not respond to his critics since he believes this is a way of electioneering by some politicians.
This, Col Winthai said, differs from cases in which soldiers were defamed, something the army chief pays attention to. The spokesman said such cases could affect servicemen's morale and the credibility of the army as a whole.
The army may need to create better public understanding and use judicial processes to deal with such cases, according to Col Winthai.
He apparently referred to a case in which Lt Col Pakit Phonfak, attached to a unit based in Prachin Buri, was allegedly insulted by Seri Ruam Thai Party leader, Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, who was campaigning at a market in Prachin Buri's Muang district on Monday.
Pol Gen Sereepisuth was seen in a video clip using strong language to tell the solider, who followed him, to go away.
Gen Apirat handed a certificate to praise the conduct of Lt Col Pakit before a special meeting of army units, ranging from divisions to regiments.
About 800 officers took part in the event, held at the Kittikachorn conference hall at the Royal Thai Army headquarters.
He said Lt Col Pakit exercised restraint despite being provoked and defamed.
Gen Apirat said the army is politically neutral and proceeds with every matter in line with democracy.
Before the meeting, Gen Apirat led other soldiers in paying homage to the King Rama V statue and delivering their oath of allegiance.