Anti-coup groups warn of protests

Anti-coup groups warn of protests

Activists have threatened to step up their activities against the junta next week ahead of the fourth anniversary of the May 22 putsch.

Supreme Commander, Thanchaiyan Srisuwan, said Thursday security authorities are preparing to deal with demonstrators.

Gen Thanchaiyan pledged to support the government, saying the military is part and parcel of national administration and its duty is to ensure that the government's work can continue uninterrupted.

He was responding to questions regarding Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's latest comments which indicate he could seek to retain his grip on power after the next general election.

Gen Thanchaiyan said the military would continue its support for the government and its leader, but distanced himself from politics when asked if armed forces leaders would join a military-backed party.

Also Thursday, army commander Chalermchai Sitthisad allayed concerns about planned demonstrations against the regime by anti-coup activists, saying officials are prepared for all eventualities.

However, he urged the media not to magnify the importance of the protests as it could hurt the investment climate, adding that nothing significant might actually happen.

Gen Chalermchai also said political parties, both old and new, have so far toed the line and operated within the legal limits of the political activities ban.

PM's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana defended a proposal to increase the amount of money allotted to so-called village funds by 300,000 baht per village, denying it was an attempt to woo votes.

He said the proposal was part of a scheme to promote job creation and improve people's standard of living.

About 66,000 villages out of 79,000 are eligible to receive additional funding of 300,000 baht from their current amounts of 500,000 baht and 200,00 baht, he said.

Meanwhile, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva remarked on criticism of the regime that it is recruiting people who share its political ideology, saying he see this as a political bargaining ploy.

The government has come under fire for luring politicians to join a military-backed political party which would support Gen Prayut's return as premier after the election.

Political observers said the regime was offering positions in the government to politicians to secure their loyalty ahead of the election. This, according to Mr Abhisit, is political bargaining at play.

The Democrat leader also stood firm on his position that the party was ready to sit on the opposition benches if joining up with certain parties meant betraying its democratic principles.

"We uphold liberal democracy, which means a respect for the minority vote and a checks-and-balances system. We don't have to form an alliance with anyone.

"If doing so means our principles are compromised and the country heads in the wrong direction, we'll assume a scrutiny role," he said.

Thee Office of the Election Commission said it had approved 31 applications to set up political parties from 99 submitted and 14 had been allowed by the National Council for Peace and Order to hold a general assembly to select their executives.

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