November 26, 2020

Thailand’s Army Chief Rules Out Coup as Protesters Plan Strike

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a man wearing a costume: Narongpan Jittkaewtae Thailand's newly appointed Royal Thai Army chief, General Narongphan Jitkaewtae on Oct. 5.


© Photographer: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP
Narongpan Jittkaewtae Thailand’s newly appointed Royal Thai Army chief, General Narongphan Jitkaewtae on Oct. 5.

Thailand’s new army chief said there was “zero chance” for a military coup now and urged all parties to avoid creating conditions that would lead to violence amid growing anti-government protests.

“We should make the possibility for such action to go below zero. All parties must help,” Narongpan Jittkaewtae, who took over as the army chief last week, said at a news briefing in Bangkok Tuesday. “Political problems must be solved by politics.”

Narongpan is now leading a powerful institution that’s led several coups that overthrew elected governments, including the most recent one in 2014 when Prayuth Chan-Ocha, then army chief, took power. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a banned opposition leader, said last week he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a coup if the protests escalated.

Political risk is back in the spotlight in Thailand, where anti-government protesters have called for a general strike on Oct. 14 after a series of demonstrations starting mid-July started calls for greater democracy and reform of the monarchy.

The protesters are demanding a rewrite of the constitution — written by a military-appointed panel — that they regard as instrumental in keeping Prayuth as prime minister after the 2019 elections. The parliament agreed last month to delay a vote on charter amendment, angering protesters.

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