Army chief threatens ‘full force’

Army chief threatens ‘full force’

Fatal attacks on PDRC draw Prayuth warning

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has threatened to use "full force" to deal with any future political violence in the wake of deadly attacks on protest sites Thursday.

Bloodstains are still fresh on the ground as the bomb squad and the media arrive at the Democracy Monument where M79 grenades were fired at the anti-government gathering Thursday, killing at least three people and injuring many others. APICHART JINAKUL

Deputy army spokesman Col Winthai Suvari delivered the army chief’s statement following attacks on a People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest site on Ratchadamnoen Avenue early Thursday, which killed three people and wounded 22 others.

It is the most explicit threat of military action delivered by the army chief since political unrest erupted late last year.

Gen Prayuth’s warning comes as the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) plans to mobilise its supporters this weekend to oppose the Senate’s efforts to install an interim prime minister under Section 7 of the constitution. The move has fuelled fears that violence will ensue.

The UDD believes the current political situation is reaching "breaking point".

A Senate coordinating committee Thursday concluded that the Upper House has the authority to select an interim prime minister to break the political impasse, either via Section 7 or Section 132 of the charter.

Gen Prayuth condemned the fresh violence and urged the public to denounce acts of violence and the use of force against innocent people.

Anyone with information regarding those involved in the attacks should present it to the army, he said.

Gen Prayuth said if the current political crisis escalates into violence and riots, the army may have to deploy military forces to deal with it.

He warned the attackers to immediately stop using violence against people, otherwise the army could be forced to end the violence "in full force" to maintain law and order.

He added military authorities will take decisive action against any armed groups or armed individuals trying to resist or retaliate against the army or attack innocent people. Those who commit such wrongdoings cannot demand any compensation, he said.

Gen Prayuth also voiced support for the ongoing efforts to solve the political crisis through dialogue and legal channels.

He urged all sides of the political divide to adopt a peaceful approach and to avoid creating any conditions that could complicate the situation.

Responding to criticism of the armed forces leaders’ "inaction" in the face of the political crisis, Gen Prayuth said the army has been careful in its actions because the current political problem is complex and multi-dimensional.

He also warned that those who speak ill of the armed forces must be careful with their remarks. Such remarks could be deemed as an insult to the military’s dignity and all soldiers find them unacceptable, he said.

He said the armed forces belong to the nation and all Thais, not any particular group. If the need arises, the armed forces must try their best to protect the country and maintain peace and harmony, Gen Prayuth said.

Speaking at a rally stage on Utthayan Road, UDD leader Jatuporn Prompan said the Senate’s efforts to install an interim prime minister violate the constitution.

He accused the senators of being complicit in acts of insurrection.

Mr Jatuporn said the UDD will mobilise supporters between tomorrow and Monday for a major rally at Utthayan Road.

"We believe the situation is reaching breaking point sooner than we expected. We don't know what [PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban] will do if the Senate does not follow his demands," Mr Jatuporn said, adding that the coming three days will be crucial.

The UDD will be prepared if the PDRC makes a major move during that period, he warned.

After a meeting with representatives of public and private organisations yesteday, Senator Jate Siratharanont, who sits on a Senate coordinating committee, said it was agreed that the Upper House will choose an interim prime minister to break the political deadlock. There are two approaches — through Section 7 of the charter or Section 132 (2).

Section 132 (2) allows the Senate to appoint an individual to any position in accordance with the charter’s provisions. This approach was proposed by Senator Dejudom Krairit, Mr Jate said.

Mr Jate also said acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan has agreed to meet for talks with the Senate’s coordinating committee tomorrow to discuss the political crisis.

He said it would be best if during the talks, acting Senator Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai could convince the remaining 25 caretaker ministers to resign to pave the way for the appointment of an interim premier.

If they refuse to resign, the Senate will assert its authority and choose an interim prime minister, Mr Jate said.

Senate secretary-general Norarat Pimsen said yesterday the Senate secretariat has forwarded the names of Surachai Liangboonlertchai and Pirasak Porjit to the cabinet’s secretariat for submission to His Majesty the King for royal endorsement.

Mr Surachai and Mr Porjit were elected last week by the Senate as the new speaker and deputy speaker respectively.

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