Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has warned anti-government activists not to cross the line as they plan to hold a rally this Saturday to demand a general election.
A group calling itself "People Who Want Elections" is demanding that a general election take place no later than March 10, referring to a constitutional requirement that the polls must be held within 150 days of the enforcement of the law on the election of MPs, which has taken effect.
They are threatening to step up the pressure by holding a demonstration at Democracy Monument if a royal decree announcing the election is not published on Friday.
"You've imposed a deadline for others to meet your demands. So, you should also draw the line on your own actions and don't step over that line," said Gen Apirat, also secretary-general of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
Gen Apirat, who also commands the NCPO's peacekeeping force, said that while pro-election activists have the right to public assembly, they should exercise it in line with the law.
He voiced concern that the planned rally would adversely affect business operators around the rally site and hurt tourism. It will be necessary to deploy security forces to maintain peace and order during the rally, the army chief said.
Gen Apirat said he has many years of experience handling protesters, adding that the protesters are "the same old groups".
He also said security officials have been assigned to observe election campaigns by parties and keep order ahead of the election. "We're not nitpicking for faults," Gen Apirat insisted.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said that he would not mind if security authorities monitored the election campaigns as long as they do not try to intimidate others.
Meanwhile, the Pheu Thai Party issued a statement calling on all involved in holding the election to clarify a poll date. The party also accused those in power of intimidating pro-election activists and using state mechanisms to gain an unfair political advantage over other political parties.
In a statement, the party said the Internal Security Operations Command's Region 2 Tuesday met leaders of local governing bodies from 20 provinces in the Northeast in Udon Thani to educate them about the constitution and the election, even though this was not the duty of soldiers.
Pheu Thai also called on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to tell state agencies to maintain neutrality ahead of the poll and for the Election Commission to look into such cases where they do not.
- Surasak commentary: The real troublemaker