Army boss warns students

Army boss warns students

Arnon vows to ramp up demonstrations

Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae has his first press conference after assuming his position, at the army headquarters in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo: Wassana Nanuam)
Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae has his first press conference after assuming his position, at the army headquarters in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo: Wassana Nanuam)

New army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae has urged anti-government protesters calling for the reform of the monarchy to reform themselves first before telling other people what to do.

He was referring to the anti-government protesters whose demands include calls for changes to the institution.

"They should look at themselves first to see whether they have done everything right before telling others what to do," the army chief said.

Gen Narongphan also warned all parties involved not to create conditions for severe conflict to ensure the chances of another coup are zero.

Gen Narongphan, who took the top army position last Thursday, held his first press briefing on Tuesday after a meeting of army unit commanders at the Royal Thai Army headquarters.

His comments come a week ahead of anti-government demonstrations scheduled for Oct 14 at Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok.

This Oct 14 marks the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student-led uprising that culminated in the downfall of the military government of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn.

Asked about the planned protest that may risk offending the monarchy, Gen Narongphan said that everyone has freedom, but the freedom of expression must be in line with the law.

"The use of freedom must not violate others' rights and you must take responsibility for your actions if you break the law," the army chief said.

Commenting on the army's role under his command, Gen Narongphan said four things in his view had to be protected -- the nation, religion, the King and the people.

"I will do whatever it takes to ensure their security," he added.

Asked whether he could guarantee there would be no coup during his three-year tenure ending in 2023, he declined to reply directly. "Every army chief has been asked this question and he invariably says the chance is zero on condition that no one causes a conflict that leads to violence and unrest," he said.

When the question was repeated, he said: "There is no chance. I don't think that there is such a situation in Thailand because our country is now at its best. It's evident that the country has the most freedom along with plentiful resources which guarantees happy lives."

The 57-year-old army chief also said political problems must be addressed by political solutions and he is a government official who has to follow the policies of the government, defence minister and defence forces chief.

He said whatever he does will comply with the creed of the army.

Meanwhile, Arnon Nampa, co-leader of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) and the Free People group, said on Tuesday that the anti-government rally planned for Oct 14 will escalate to pressure Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign and for a new constitution to be drawn up.

He also reiterated the group's calls for the monarchy to be reformed.

"We have tried to make our voice heard, but it has fallen on deaf ears. But on Oct 14, the protest will escalate. Demonstrators from the Free Student group and the UFTD will also attend the rally," Mr Arnon said.

Mr Arnon said that whether the protest will drag on depends on the turnout of demonstrators at the rally.

"If a million people show up, things will end in one day. But if there are hundreds of thousands of them, we may have to wait for those from the provinces to join. Whether it will drag on depends on the situation on that day," Mr Arnon said.

Pol Maj Gen Somprasong Yenthuam, deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said it is still not known whether the protesters will proceed to other locations from their rally venue at Democracy Monument.

He said the protest leaders have not yet asked authorities for permission to hold the rally, and that police are trying to contact them.

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