A meeting of the Defence Council yesterday comprising government figures and top military brass went smoothly, after initial fears of a confrontation over legal action being taken against pro-government red shirts by the Army over secession remarks.
Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha defended himself against criticism over his alleged favouritism of the anti-government movement.
He faced claims of Army inaction towards the activities and protests by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), while legal action was taken against pro-government red shirts after their alleged calls for secession.
Prayuth said the caretaker government and anti-protest command had already dealt with the PDRC, while the Army initiated legal action against the secession call, which he said represented “clear and present danger”.
After the meeting, Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Paphathip Sawangsaeng quoted caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra, who is also caretaker defence minister, as vowing not to allow secession, or any violation of the Constitution. She instructed all security authorities, especially the Internal Security Operations Command, to act against the secession call “treating all political groups equally”, said the colonel.
He said Yingluck thanked the military for performing its security duties and providing medical assistance during the protests. She repeated her call for the military to review the locations of military emplacements in Bangkok to make them appropriate to the situation and befitting the country’s image.
She thanked the military for ordering troops to vote in the general election on February 2. She also praised military units in the far South for their handling of insurgency-related violence and called for support of royally initiated strategies to win over the local population in the region. She also asked the military to support the Senate election on March 30 and stay neutral in Thai politics.
The meeting was called by Yingluck and held at the Air Force main auditorium in northern Bangkok. The event discussed routine agendas and defence affairs as well as political issues, including the continuing PDRC protests, the coming senatorial candidacy registration and election, and secession calls by red-shirt groups and their reported mobilisation of men and equipment.
Before the meeting, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, as chief advisor of the government’s Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, called on Prayuth to deal with “rebels in the capital” in the same way that he had dealt with red shirts in the North who had made a secession call. He said that fair treatment of both groups would result in the country returning to order.
PDRC supporters in Phitsanulok, where banners promoting a secession call were posted at several locations, filed a complaint with police against caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan over his statement made at a red-organised rally on February 23. They claimed he delivered messages in favour of the secession call and said there were 10 million pistols in the possession of Thai people.
A civic anti-corruption group in Khon Kaen did the same, telling police that Charupong made similar statements on the next two days.