Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda appeared together on the weekly programme Having Confidence in Thailand to outline their plans to handle the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship demonstrations. The following is an excerpt from the broadcast:
How do you assess the situation?
Mr Abhisit: After more than 40 days, pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. In the beginning, the connections between several factions and those in parliament were unclear. Now they are becoming clearer. The opposition party was on the [UDD] stage. That showed they were fighting together. At the same time, there were two incidents on April 10 and three days ago [Thursday] in Silom, which showed that armed men with war weapons were in the rally and wanted violence.
So you link the actions of demonstrators to those of terrorists?
Mr Abhisit: I can say that it is no coincidence that certain names have been mentioned and I cannot say that they are working separately. Names like Seh Daeng [Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol], Gen Chavalit [Yongchaiyudh] and top leaders of the demonstration are connected to key incidents.
In retrospect, has the government made any decisions that adversely affected the situation?
Mr Abhisit: I must admit that we underestimated the protest movement in some incidents, such as what happened on April 10. I did not expect the loss of lives of security forces and civilians.
Then came what happened in Silom. We were worried when the two groups [the red shirts and the anti-UDD group] were so close. Measures were prepared. But I did not expect that there would be a group of people capable of firing at the innocent people gathered there. The government had been criticised and people had asked how many more innocent people would die. I have to say that nobody wants to see that happen.
Let me stress that the problem is not only at Ratchaprasong. The ultimate goal is to restore peace in our society. Trying to reclaim that area for the public is one of our targets. But I cannot say when we will do it.
The rally has been going on for some time. Do you know those who have used war weapons? People are feeling threatened and insecure in the country.
Mr Abhisit: Somebody has made himself clear already. He announced since late last year that he was training people in connection with the political gathering. Another group was arrested in connection with the April 10 incident who possessed arms. The investigation is under way to find more people.
What will the army do if those armed men are linked to the army?
Gen Anupong: I have to address two issues: the arms and ammunition, and personnel. We have checked weapon stores with all of our units and they are still in their depots. War weapons do not come from us.
On the issue of personnel, we know that there are a group of armed men, some of whom are in the army, but they do not hold any positions as far as I know. The rest could be former soldiers and civil servants who have been trained to use weapons.
Thailand falls to 73rd position in Economist’s Democracy Index
Within Southeast Asia, Thailand’s score regressed in 2020, falling to 73rd from 68th, including those related to the treatment of the opposition and to curbs on freedom of expression.
Democracy in sickness and in health? is the title of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Democracy Index report, which looks at the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on freedom and democracy around the world.
Military coup in Myanmar threatens economic recovery
The coup follows rising tension between the government and the military over claims by the military that the NDL’s landslide win during the November election was marred by fraud.
After a decade of democracy, the Myanmar military has staged a coup ousting the newly re-elected NDL party. So far, the coup has been peaceful and we do not expect it to lead to any major social unrest or large protests amid public concerns about Covid-19.
Thai generals want more control on foreign businesses
Thailand’s military government is planning to amend the FBA (Foreign Business Act) to prevent foreign directors from controlling joint venture firms that are majority-owned by Thai shareholders.
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