Apirat scoffs at rumours of coup plot
Army chief Apirat Kongsompong has dismissed rumours of a coup and urged the armed forces to maintain political neutrality, especially with the election drawing near.
"I have told the forces that from now on they need to be very careful about every step they make to prevent them being targeted [by social media claims they are plotting a coup]," said Gen Apirat.
He was speaking after a meeting between senior Royal Thai Army officers Wednesday.
According to the army chief, military personnel will be deployed to assist at polling booths in line with regulations stipulated by the Election Commission (EC).
Senior officers at the meeting were told to inform their subordinates to remain politically neutral.
Gen Apirat also dismissed coup rumours, calling them groundless.
"Attempts have been made by certain [political] elements to create a false impression of an impending putsch," said Gen Apirat. "Various events [which are not related] were being linked to claim a coup is being engineered, which is baseless."
When he spoke to the media, Gen Apirat was adamant that no coup was being planned, and he blamed social media for starting the rumour. (Video is Thai language)
Coup rumours began spreading on Friday when Princess Ubolratana's name was submitted as a prime ministerial candidate by the Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) Party.
The nomination was withdrawn hours later after His Majesty the King issued a royal command indicating it was highly inappropriate for royal family members to be involved in politics.
These events occurred as army tanks rolled through streets in Sa Kaeo, Prachin Buri and Chon Buri. "These vehicles were heading to take part in an exercise," Gen Apirat said.
"I want to appeal to people not to panic or fall prey to individuals who want to distort situations through social media," he said.
With the March 24 election looming, attempts have been made by "the same old faces" to politicise certain moves and developments, Gen Apirat said without elaborating.