Army chief slams Suthep and anti-coup duo

Army chief slams Suthep and anti-coup duo

Coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha broke his silence on alleged links to Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday and sternly ordered an end to all political talk.

"I did not collude with anybody," he said in his weekly address to the country. The deterioration of the political situation forced the army to resolve the problem, he added.

The army was simply following the direction of the government led by then-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to try to end unrest, Gen Prayuth said of the six-month period before the May 22 coup. During that time, the Pheu Thai government was the target of street rallies by the People's Democratic Reform Committee led by Mr Suthep.

Gen Prayuth did not name the former Democrat Party powerbroker and deputy premier but his statement was clearly directed at him. It was his first public comment on the issue.

Mr Suthep reportedly infuriated the army chief when he boasted at a fund-raising dinner last weekend that he and Gen Prayuth had been in frequent contact ever since 2010.

On Monday Gen Prayuth issued a denial through Col Winthai Suwaree, the deputy spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

The event headlined by Mr Suthep at the posh Pacific City Club was billed as a fund-raiser for a new foundation to help victims of political violence. But those who attended said it was more like a PDRC reunion and Mr Suthep took the opportunity to claim he had "advised" the army.

The army chief and NCPO chairman showed no emotion during his speech but made clear that no more such events would be tolerated. They disrupted plans to end political rifts and could only encourage rival political factions to follow suit, he said, warning of action if his message is ignored.

"Stop it here. Don't organise events like political talks and dinners to raise funds to help anybody. It's not the right time to do that," he said.

"If anybody wants to talk, do it one on one in private at home. Gatherings or events cannot be organised because they are in violation of the martial law.

"Anybody doing it again will be summoned for legal action as they violate the NCPO order."

The general's next targets were former Pheu Thai leader Charupong Ruangsuwan and political dissident Jakrapob Penkair, who were behind the setting up of the anti-coup Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FT-HD) against the military regime.

Gen Prayuth urged them to return to fight their legal cases in Thailand with justice and fairness guaranteed. If they continue their fight from outside Thailand, he added, they could face more charges.

"Don't let these people lead the country absolutely. They don't have any credit," he said.

The NCPO issued an arrest warrant for Mr Charupong after he failed to report to the council after the coup. He lives in an unknown location.

Mr Jakrapob, who is a founding member of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, lives in exile. His latest public appearance was in Hong Kong on Thursday, where he talked about the future of the FT-HD as the group was finding a base for its office in a Western country.

The army chief said new general elections could be held before the end of next year and called for patience as the country needed to go through a reform stage before the poll is held.

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