News / Asia

Thai Army Chief Issues Veiled Election Endorsement

New Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha (file photo)
New Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha (file photo)

Thailand’s army chief has weighed in on the country’s election, urging the public to vote for “good people” who support the monarchy.

In a late night nationwide broadcast Tuesday, Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thai people should come out and vote.

But he warned if people repeat past voting patterns, choosing the same parties or not voting at all, the country will see no changes.

Prayuth urged Thailand to vote for “good people” who support the monarchy.

He said security services found widespread evidence of attacks on the monarchy, specifically naming at least one supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

He says there are increasing illegal actions concerning lese majeste, especially during the election campaign, with links to groups of people living overseas. He says he can say this because they are guilty of many charges, trying to insult the monarchy, and having links to many other groups of people. He says the authorities cannot let them violate the law.

Thailand’s strict law against insulting the monarchy, lese majeste, which carries a prison term of up to 15 years, has been criticized as being abused for political purposes.

Prayuth has charged a number of opposition Red Shirt leaders who last year organized street protests against the Democrat-led government with lese majeste.

The general helped lead the military crackdown that ended the protests. Fighting between the military and the protesters, some of whom were armed,  killed 90 people, most of them civilians.

Thaksin’s parties won Thailand’s last four elections but the military ousted him in a 2006 coup and accused him of being authoritarian, corrupt, and disloyal to the monarchy. He denies the charges.

Thaksin fled into exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, leads the opposition Pheu Thai party.  

Thai political commentators have voiced concerns if Pheu Thai wins a majority the military could stage another coup.  The army chief has repeatedly denied this possibility.

Despite his political commentary, Prayuth said the army will remain neutral in the July 3 polls.

Thailand's military has a long history of interfering in politics, having mounted 18 coups or attempted coups since the country moved from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one.

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