Thailand’S army commander insisted on Wednesday November 28 that the military has no role in December 23 elections and dismissed concerns of another military coup if voters elect allies of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
‘We do not have any involvement in the upcoming election,’ general Anupong Paochinda said. Gen Anupong became army commander in October after Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led last year’s coup, retired from the army and became deputy prime minister.
Thaksin was accused of widespread corruption and abuse of power and was ousted in a bloodless coup on September 19, 2006. His ruling party was dissolved but has regrouped as the People’s Power Party, which polls show is neck-in-neck with its main rival, the Democrat Party.
Gen Anupong said that if PPP wins and dismisses him he would accept their wishes.
‘I would obey their orders. As a professional soldier, I would not stage a coup for myself,’ he said in response to a reporter’s question.
He also denied reports that soldiers were sent to intimidate political canvassers in some rural areas.
Thailand has had 18 military coups since 1932, when the country became a constitutional monarchy.
PPP leaders say if they are elected they will bring back Thaksin, who has been in exile in London, and seek revenge against the generals who were behind the coup.
Samak Sundaravej, the PPP leader, has repeatedly told campaign rallies that his mission is to ‘bring back Thaksin with full honors’ and make him an economic adviser to the government.
Meanwhile, a leader of a small political party was detained on Wednesday November 28 for suspected involvement in a pyramid scheme, police Lt Piyawat Kingket said.
Thai Rum Ruay Party leader Pathom Ansakul will remain in the race because he has not been convicted, said Somchai Juengprasert, one of five election commissioners.
More than 4,200 candidates from 41 parties are competing for 480 seats in the lower house of Parliament in the polls -the first to be held since last year’s coup.