Officers criticised for protesting in uniform
Relatives of those killed by soldiers in May 1992 yesterday condemned the Army officers' protest against the ASTV Manager daily paper. Adul Kiewbariboon, chairman of the group, issued a statement and held a press conference to say the group feared the Army was becoming more powerful than the government.
Adul said all sides should try to rein in the unchecked power of the Army and urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to explain publicly that the military is not independent of the state.
He said officers in uniform clearly threatened the media and their protest in front of the paper twice - on Friday and Saturday - was wrong. It was an undemocratic act and he urged the Army to take disciplinary action against them.
Adul said believing that such a demonstration was acceptable was a danger to democracy, as Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha could always file libel charges against the paper if he felt he had been defamed.
"The Army is a state agency and not independent of the state - but such an action confuses the public and makes it believe the armed forces are independent. It's the duty of the government to ensure that no such thing occurs again."
Adul, meanwhile, urged the mass media to adhere to its ethics and asked all related associations, including the press council, to do their job properly.
Chairperson of the red-shirt Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) Thida Tavornsaet Tojirakarn defended the rights of soldiers under the constitution to protest. But she said they should not do so wearing uniforms.
"We think they have the right but it seems rather inappropriate… It's best they do it without the uniform."
She said the Army was less extreme than the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which the paper is a mouthpiece for.
Opposition Democrat Party-list MP Ong-art Klampaiboon said the protest was a threat against the mass media and urged the Army to seek legal channels to address the issue instead.
Men in uniform protesting clearly constitutes a threat against civilians, said Ong-art, adding it was highly inappropriate.