Military Chief Rebuffs Suthep's Call For Coup

Anti-government protesters at Democracy Monument watching live broadcast of public forum in which Suthep Thaugsuban meets with commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, 14 December 2013

(15 December) Supreme commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces has rejected protest leader′s plan to derail the upcoming general election.


However, the leader of People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD), Suthep Thaugsuban, vowed to press on with his campaign to have the election postponed and his "reforms" for Thailand′s political structure implemented first.
The two met face-to-face at a public forum held yesterday by the Royal Thai Armed Forces at Peace Centre in Bangkok. The forum was described by the military as a panel in which different political factions can discuss their ideas in order to find the solution for Thailand′s turmoil.
Mr. Suthep has previously asked to meet with chiefs of the military, but they have denied him the chance, instructing him instead to voice his demands in the public forum. 
Although the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) has been invited, no Redshirts leader arrived at the forum. The chief of Royal Thai Police likewise did not attend, explaining that it would contradict with the police′s regulations since Mr. Suthep is currently wanted by an arrest warrant on insurrection charges.
General Thanasak Patimakorn, the commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, delivered the opening remarks,  expressing his wish that all representatives attending the forum would treat each other as fellow brethren. 
He also stressed that the military must act in accordance with the laws and the Constitution. "If I don?t control [the military] and let them behave in wrongful ways, it would become a large group of bandits," Gen. Thanasak said, "That is why we have to live under reasons and rules".
Mr. Suthep then said that he had intended to meet with Gen. Thanasak and other military commanders because he wanted to inform them that the government of Prime Minister Yingluck has already lost its legitimacy, with the PCAD exercising the sovereign rights of the people.
The fastest way to end the crisis, Mr. Suthep told the forum, is to have PM Yingluck resign from her caretaker position, and hand the governmental power to the unelected ?People′s Council? whose members would be appointed by PCAD.
"In the past, with our nation in such a severe condition, the military would have launched a coup already," Mr. Suthep said, "I know the military leaders these days are modern soldiers. The people don?t want the military to do that. But the military can decide on its own. They have duty to be responsible for Thailand".
He added, "I am not forcing anyone, but if the military makes up its mind quickly, they will be heroes of the people".
When Gen. Thanasak asked Mr. Suthep to remove the large banners resembling Thai national flag which his supporters had hung around the besieged Government House, PCAD leader said he would make sure the flag would be treated with dignity. 
He also told Gen. Thanasak to withdraw the police garrison in Government House and replace them with "5-6" soldiers.
Mr. Suthep went on, "The Prime Minister must quit, so the People′s Council can be set up in the vacuum. If she cannot do that, she will have to see people coming out to fight".
He stressed that the military must take side with the people. "I understand it is hard for you to decide … but today, every must decide already. The Great Mass of the People are willing to fight for another year. I came here today to tell you that the people want to do something for their country. They are waiting for the military′s decision".
However, Gen. Thanasak said in the conclusion of the forum that he would not allow the military to intervene against the government of Ms. Yingluck as requested by Mr. Suthep, and that he would like to see the next election taking place as scheduled. 
If Mr. Suthep is convinced the election would be rigged, Gen. Thanasak said, he should set up committees to oversee the election and make certain it would be a fair and clean one.
He insisted that the military would not launch a coup, because they have to respect rules and laws.
"The best way is to engage in dialogue and choose the best path. Everyone must exchange with each other, instead of turning their back to each other," Gen. Thanasak added, "Do this, and, I believe, there won?t be a civil war."
Asked by a reporter whether the military would play a role as referee in the period leading up to the election, Gen. Thanasak simply replied that the military does not possess knowledge about legal matters. 
"You?d better listen to academics who are knowledgeable about this matter", Gen. Thanasak told reporters.

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