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article imageThai Army ready to take action to 'solve' political conflict

By Alessio Fratticcioli     Jan 23, 2014 in World
Bangkok - The Royal Thai Army (RTA) is prepared to intervene if the political situation worsens, army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wednesday.
“Whenever conflicts become violent and insoluble the military will have to solve them,” Gen Prayuth said in the clearest indication yet that the military is willing to step in.
“We will do our best to take care of the nation and use the right methods,” he told Thai newspaper Bangkok Post.
The Thai crisis is unfolding with the opposition "Democrat Party" boycotting the approaching February 2 general election, key government departments paralyzed, parts of the capital shut down, and nine people killed since political unrest began in November.
The anti-government protesters, led by People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban, accuse PM Yingluck Shinawatra of being a puppet of her brother Thaksin, currently in self-imposed exile.
PDRC leaders, who believe their group has the backing of the old royalist establishment, which is traditionally aligned with the military, demand the country abandon its electoral system in favor of an unelected and ill-defined "People’s Council."
According to Marc Saxer, a political analyst based in Bangkok, the role of the protests "is to pressure on both the government and the military... to lend legitimacy to an illegitimate power grab."
A similar protest movement and election boycott paved the way for the September 2006 military coup that ousted the Thaksin Shinawatra's administration. The longest-serving democratically-elected Prime Minister of Thailand had won three national elections in a row thanks to the support from the urban and rural poor who benefited from his 'populist' programs.
The Kingdom of Thailand has a long tradition of military coup d'état. The Army has staged 18 coups or attempted coups since the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932. Anyway, this time a putsch may not be particularly smooth.
The pro-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) protest group, whose supporters are commonly called Red Shirts, may present an insidious resistance to Gen Prayuth's combat units, particularly in their strongholds in Thailand's north and northeast, as well as in the capital and surrounding areas.
"I can assure you, on behalf of the 20 provinces in the northeast, that we will fight," said Kwanchai Praipana, a leading Red Shirt activist shot in an apparent assassination attempt on Wednesday.
"The country will be set alight if the soldiers come out," he told Reuters.
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