NCPO warns Suthep not to meet fans
Former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban should stay put and not try to meet supporters at this time, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has warned.
NCPO secretary-general and army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said yesterday the council has met and mulled over plans by his party to meet voters. Nothing conclusive was reached on the issue, however.
But the army chief insisted Mr Suthep should wait until the NCPO lifts its political activities ban before conducting any gatherings.
Mr Suthep, former leader of the defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee and now co-founder of the Ruamphalang Prachachartthai Party, or Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT), is reportedly organising a "caravan" to meet supporters in the provinces.
Gen Chalermchai said Mr Suthep has not formally requested NCPO permission to stage the caravan. The army chief said if the regime allowed one political group or party to hold a mass gathering, it would have to do the same with other parties.
"The general election is on the horizon. Everyone wants to canvass for votes. But we should do that only when everything is ready and all parties enjoy a level playing field," the NCPO secretary-general said.
Gen Chalermchai said the regime was in the middle of discussing whether the political activities ban can be relaxed by next month.
"But it won't take long. Details of a progressive lifting of the ban to help with poll preparations are to be fleshed out in due course. The ban will not be removed in its entirety," he said.
Fourth Army Region commander Piyawat Nakawanich insisted Mr Suthep must abide by the law and orders issued by the NCPO.
Mr Suthep previously served as Democrat Party MP for several constituencies in Surat Thani, his home province. Observers said if he were to try to meet supporters in his capacity as an ACT co-founder, Surat Thani might be one of the first places he visits.
Lt Gen Piyawat noted many politicians in the South, the region which his command oversees, have begun staging activities in the border provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.
He said soldiers will not take sides with politicians.
However, the military will adopt measures to maintain peace in the lead-up to the next election as poll campaigns are often marred by violence, he said.
"Law breakers will be arrested," he said.