Thailand’s new military chief said he has no interest in meddling in politics and toppling elected governments.
Armed forces commander-in-chief Gen. Chalermpol Srisawat made the pledge during the first meeting of the new chiefs of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, hoping to reassure Thais about stability after the military staged 18 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.
Of course, the army would have no interest in toppling the current government as it is led by the man who, six years ago, staged the country’s latest coup. But dissatisfaction is rising about his administration mired in allegations of corruption and incompetence.
Chalermpol’s no-more-coups pledge coincided with the Oct. 6 anniversary of a massacre of students by soldiers and right-wing militias at Bangkok’s Thammasat University 44 years ago.
On Oct. 6, 1976, dozens of student protesters were lynched and gunned down in an orgy of violence on the university’s campus in what became a watershed moment in Thais’ struggle for democracy. Nearly half a century later, true democracy remains an elusive dream in Thailand.
However, in recent months youth-led pro-democracy mass rallies have been gathering momentum with protesters demanding sweeping political reforms, including the amendment of the latest constitution, which was drafted by the military after it seized power in 2014.
The army’s newly appointed chief, Gen. Narongphan Jitkaewtae, has said that he considers protecting the monarchy as one of his priorities.
“Protecting the monarchy with absolute loyalty and supporting the government to resolve national problems and working to advance the country are honorable tasks for us (the generals),” Narongphan stressed at a gathering of army generals on Sept. 23.