Military told to maintain neutrality
Armed forces to stay out of by-elections
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the armed forces to remain politically neutral in the upcoming by-elections in Bangkok, Chumphon and Songkhla and support the polls.
Gen Prayut, who also serves as defence minister, ordered the military to lend its full support during the polls, said Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich, spokesman for the Defence Ministry.
The by-elections are being held in Chumphon's Constituency 1 and Songkhla's Constituency 6 on Sunday and in Bangkok's Constituency 9 on Jan 30.
The polls this weekend cover a combined 495 units while the Jan 30 election will cover 280 polling units.
Gen Kongcheep said yesterday the armed forces will support the elections by allowing candidates, upon request, to campaign for votes in the military's residential communities.
The parties will be given equal opportunities to canvass for votes in the communities, the spokesman added.
The military will also increase awareness of the polls among military families and people living around the barracks.
Early this month, the Democrat Party claimed that soldiers were trying to interfere in its preparations for the by-election in Chumphon.
Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae then instructed 4th Army Region commander Lt Gen Kriangkrai Srilak to head a probe into the complaint.
Democrat spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng alleged a senior-ranking army officer with the alias "Seh Tor" had led a team of about 100 soldiers in Constituency 1 in Chumphon to pressure residents into voting for a particular candidate. A few days later, Lt Gen Kriangkrai said the probe had concluded there was no basis to the claims.
Yesterday, Sorawong Thienthong, deputy leader of the main opposition Pheu Thai Party, said he received a report that a certain high-ranking official has told residents in a military residential community to vote for the candidate of one particular party in Bangkok's Constituency 9 by-election in Laksi district and part of the adjacent Chatuchak district.
Pheu Thai is fielding Surachart Thienthong in the poll.
Cholnan Srikaew, the Pheu Thai leader, said the party was forming its own poll-monitoring team to look out for any electoral fraud in the by-elections or any sign of irregularities.
He said the team has not found anything unusual in poll preparations by any party so far.
Meanwhile, Pol Lt Gen Sarawut Karnpanich, assistant national police chief, said the police have launched a crackdown on computer- and technology-related crimes the lead-up to the by-elections in the three provinces. Police are probing vandalism of a Kla Party candidate's campaign posters in Chumphon, he said.