Supporters of Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha cheer, during a final general election campaign rally in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 12, 2023. Thailand votes Sunday in an election many see as an opportunity to break free from military-led governments that have been in power for almost a decade. InternationalIndiaAfricaThailand’s top general has promised the military won’t intervene ahead of a crucial election whose frontrunners are harshly critical of the country’s armed forces.The head of Thailand’s army, Gen. Narongpan Jittkaewtae, insisted Thursday that no coup d’etat will take place in the country regardless of how Sunday’s elections play out.Speaking at a news conference ahead of the upcoming vote, local media reports Gen. Narongpan said that the chance of a coup taking place “is zero now.”The general reportedly went as far as to chide reporters for bringing up the subject, responding to a question about the prospect of a coup by urging journalists to refrain from using the word itself.“The term should not be used. It is not appropriate. I want reporters to remove it from your dictionary,” the army chief said.© AP Photo / Sakchai LalitThailand Army Chief Gen. Narongpan Jittkaewtae speaks during press briefing at the Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. Narongpan, 57, held his first press conference since becoming army commander on Oct. 1, and made the traditional pledge to defend country, the Buddhist religion, the monarchy and the people, but seemed to take a softer line than his predecessor toward a student-led anti-government protest movement. Thailand Army Chief Gen. Narongpan Jittkaewtae speaks during press briefing at the Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. Narongpan, 57, held his first press conference since becoming army commander on Oct. 1, and made the traditional pledge to defend country, the Buddhist religion, the monarchy and the people, but seemed to take a softer line than his predecessor toward a student-led anti-government protest movement. Asked whether the military would remove the word from its vocabulary as well, Narongpan responded in the affirmative, saying: “Of course, it’s removed.”The general pushed back on questions regarding concerns about post-election unrest and the military’s potential response, telling reporters:“I don’t worry. We have learned many lessons from the past.”While the general cautioned that he “cannot say whether the country will be peaceful” in the wake of Sunday’s vote, he insisted that “peace can only be achieved by everyone working together.”Indeed, “the country needs to be peaceful so the economy can grow,” the general noted.“But if we are in conflict and stir up unrest, the country will be in chaos, and people will be in trouble,” he warned, adding, “everyone must work together in the country’s best interests.”“But I can assure you that what occurred [coups] in the past. The chance is zero now.”
Over a dozen coups have been carried out in Thailand over the past century — most recently in 2014 — and the army has effectively ruled the country since.
Polls indicating anti-military forces could prevail at the polls have given rise to questions about how the generals would respond to electoral defeat.
But the top Thai general downplayed suggestions that the Move Forward Party, which is highly critical of the military, would be prevented from forming a coalition government after the poll, telling reporters, “it is up to political parties to form a coalition.”“Military personnel are not political-office holders,” he concluded.