AFTER pro-democracy protestors gathered in front of Army headquarters on Saturday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said if the “lack of order” continued, there was no guarantee that the national election would be held peacefully, raising concerns Thailand’s election could once again be delayed.
Activists gathered in front of the Royal Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok, calling for the army to cease supporting the military-led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and its role in politics.
The protesters also called on the military to return to its job of protecting the country, not administering it.
According to The Bangkok Post, Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd told reporters: “The PM said that people are beginning to worry that those haunting old scenes [of political unrest] are recurring, so he is encouraging everyone to think twice about what they should and shouldn’t do to keep the country moving forward.”
Prayuth was also quoted as saying, it is the mission of the NCPO to get the country “back to being a ‘complete democracy’” but “if unrest continues to rage, is it likely an election can proceed smoothly?”
Elections in the country have been delayed numerous times since the military junta seized power in a 2014 coup that overthrew a civilian democratically-elected government.
Polls are currently slated for February 2019, but Prayuth’s seeming reluctance to give up power and repeated delays have eroded people’s confidence in the timeframe for elections.
Around 400 activists demanded Saturday that the election be held in November this year, rather than postponed until 2019. They also threatened to stage a prolonged rally in May to oust the military regime ahead of the fourth anniversary of the May 22 coup.
Prayuth has ordered security forces to closely monitor political groups – the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) and Start Up People – who are behind the rallies.
Sansern told The Nation, “some groups have tried to create chaos and escalate their strategies if their demands are not met.”
After seizing power from then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014, the military promised to bring an end to years of political turmoil, restore order and pave the way for a return to democracy. However, rights groups have accused the junta of prolonging its crackdown on basic rights and freedoms, and devising a quasi-democratic system that the military can manipulate and control.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch said: “The Thai junta’s empty promises to respect rights and restore democratic rule have become some sort of a sick joke played on the Thai people and the international community.”