The government is obliged to deal with extensive secession calls made by red-shirt groups based in Bangkok and adjacent areas under the state of emergency, while the Army has taken action against those making similar calls in the North, Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday.
The government and its anti-protest command base, the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, are obliged to take action against the secession calls, which are illegal under four articles of the Criminal Code, Prayuth said. “It is the duty of the government and the CMPO to maintain peace and enforce the law in areas declared to be under the state of emergency,” he added.
The Army chief was responding to a new wave of secession calls made by Wuthipong Kotthammakhun aka “Ko Tee”, a hardline leader of the pro-government Pathum Thani-based red-shirt group, who declared that his group had posted banners at several locations in northern Bangkok and Pathum Thani calling for a partitioning of the country.
Certain red-shirt groups in Chiang Mai and Phayao that promoted the idea of secession are now facing charges of sedition after Prayuth ordered military prosecutors to file the charge against them with local police.
“I have followed legal steps by giving information [about the secession call made by Wutthiphong] to the CMPO and the police, not through hunting them down or making arrests,” the general said, adding that the Army was now following legal steps – like it did when dealing with violent protests by the red shirts in 2010.
Meanwhile caretaker Premier and Defence Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, speaking during a visit to Sakon Nakhon, called for an end to discussions of the secession calls made by her supporters, saying she did not agree with the idea and insisting that Thailand was indivisible.
The political divide in Thai society would be widened if the issue were discussed further, she said.
Prayuth, asked to speculate on how the political instability would end, said everyone should return home and let the normal process continue.
“We should all respect the rules and believe in the justice system. No one wins using violence and arms, and it’s impossible for the military to allow everyone to fight each other,” he added.
Responding to Yingluck’s statement about military emplacements around Bangkok harming the country’s image, Prayuth said the bunkers were necessary because most soldiers manning them were unarmed.
The Army was planning to adjust their number and locations, he said.
“Maybe flowers or pink drapes can be used to decorate the bunkers, in order to soften how they look, but soldiers are soldiers – they can’t look weak or too tidy,” he said tongue in cheek.
Asked about Prayuth’s statement on the use of flowers and pink drapes to decorate bunkers, Yingluck said she regarded it as “a result of a normal discussion”, and said such scenarios in tourist areas in Bangkok would scare off visitors.