Army boss warns of civil war
Apirat takes aim at 'leftists' for divisions
Army chief Apirat Kongsompong issued a stern warning yesterday against any efforts to change the country's constitutional monarchy system and divide the people, saying the country could suffer a civil war as a result.
He made the remark one day after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also sounded the alarm in a statement that ill-intentioned people have been spreading distorted information on social media to trigger unrest.
Speaking at the 1st Division, King's Guard on the 112nd anniversary of its founding, Gen Apirat said politicians, lecturers and students must obey the rules and not try to change the country's constitutional monarchy system.
"Those who studied democracy abroad and read other countries' textbooks must consider how they should adapt instead of trying to change the constitutional monarchy. Don't introduce the left-wing ideas you learned and be pretentious. Other countries do not do so," Gen Apirat said.
"To the students, lecturers and officials who have studied abroad, some of whom received royal and state scholarships, I would like to stress that no matter what kind of democracy you have studied about, democracy has been adapted to suit different cultures around the world," the army commander said.
He warned that refusal to follow the rules would only create problems and that people should stop trying to divide the Thai people by referring to "democratic" and "dictatorial" camps.
"Such 'democracy-dictatorship' rhetoric is meant to divide the people who voted [in the election]. Does this mean we want a civil war like in the past? Why don't you follow the rules and fight in parliament?" Gen Apirat said.
The army chief denied that the National Council for Peace and Order was dictatorial. "Otherwise, the council would have copied the acts of dictators in other countries," he said.
"Political rhetoric is an activity led by old-fashioned politicians and radical leftists. I cannot afford to let Thai people fight in the streets and cause any unrest," he said.
"In the game, the referee makes the decision on who wins or loses. If the blame is put on the referee, there will be no conclusion. Then how can there be a conclusion? I have said I'd better not elaborate, or it would be too harsh," Gen Apirat said.
"Some rich people did not flee although they were prosecuted and sentenced to jail. They accepted the justice system," he said.
Gen Apirat said the armed forces are free from politics and are professional. They adhere to the duty of protecting the nation, religions and the monarch and follow the instructions of His Majesty the King, he said.
He admitted that the armed forces are not good at using social media, while some parties are better at using the medium to reach people and communicate information.
"Social media is more powerful than the armed forces' weapons," he said.
Gen Apirat said he did not speak out often and would refrain from expressing any further opinions on the matter until after the coronation.
Responding to Gen Apirat's remarks, Weng Tojirakarn, a co-leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, posted on Facebook that nobody wanted to stir up unrest leading to a civil war or to change the constitutional monarchy.
But he said many have questioned the role of the Election Commission, which has come under fire over alleged vote-counting irregularities.
Chaikasem Nitisiri, a prime ministerial candidate of the Pheu Thai Party, said: "In a democratic system, the people are the most important. Those who hold different opinions should not be judged to be right or wrong.
"In the end, in a democratic system, the people will have the final say," Mr Chaikasem added.