BANGKOK — Thailand's army chief has refused to say whether he will accept a proposal, submitted to him by a group of retired military commanders, that calls for royal intervention into the country's political crisis.
Calling themselves Ratthabukkol (Persons of the State, or Men of the State), the group is composed of elderly retired military strongmen, chaired by former Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Gen. Saiyud Kerdphol.
Gen. Saiyud, who turned 92 this year, has been urging the military to seize power from the elected government and appoint a "neutral" government to "save the nation from crisis."
The retired general has also demanded caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisarn and the entire Cabinet resign in order to pave the way for the invocation of Royal Power.
Yesterday, Gen. Saiyud and other members of the Men of the State met with representatives from three branches of the Thai armed forces to hand over sealed letters to the military commanders. Gen. Saiyud said in a press conference later that day that the letters detailed the group’s demands for the military to request "Royal Advice" from His Majesty the King on how to resolve Thailand’s ongoing political crisis.
Speaking to reporters today, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, said he has received and read the letter from the Men of State, but has yet to make up his mind on the issue.
"The proposals are mere ideas of the Men of the State. They have no binding power on any one, they are only for consideration," Gen. Prayuth said, "Society should not criticise them yet."
Although Gen. Saiyud's proposal amounts to a thinly-veiled proposal for a military coup, Gen. Prayuth said the Men of the State should be allowed to voice their ideas, as they are simply seeking a solution for the country.
"Right now everyone wants the country to return to peace," Gen. Prayuth insisted.
Nevertheless. the army chief said the military needs to further study the proposals before they agree on a response, noting that a premature acceptance may lead to more conflicts in the future.
He added, "The army admires these [Men of the State] for their loyalty and dedication to peace in our country. It is better than many people who have done nothing except criticise others, without consideration of how much damage this country has suffered."
In the press conference yesterday Gen. Saiyud also urged the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to establish a joint "task force" to defend whatever decision is handed down by His Majesty the King.
"They must crush those who dare [challenge the Royal Power] in order to show the sacredness of the Royal Decision," Gen. Saiyud was quoted as saying in a report published by Voice TV.
Gen. Saiyud added that he will give the armed forces until 14 May to answer, and that the military should request Royal Advice from His Majesty the King by 16 May.
When a reporter asked what further steps the Persons of the State will take if the military refused their proposals, Gen. Saiyud replied that he will stop his "mission".
"Old men can only think. We have no power. We just want to inspire," Gen. Saiyud said.
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