Thai army allays fears of possible coup

Thai army allays fears of possible coup
A Thai police officer (centre) taking pictures during a peaceful protest at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok on Monday.

Thailand's powerful army tried to allay fears on Monday that it may seize control amid the country's deepening political crisis, even as protesters in southern provinces forcibly stopped candidates from registering for snap polls.

Rumours flew of a coup after the army refused to rule one out last week. Yesterday, army spokesman Winthai Suwaree told reporters that the rumours were causing "confusion and speculation".

"The army would like to insist there're no secret meetings or any operations by the military as speculated," he said.

Meanwhile, protesters trying to derail Thailand's snap polls on Feb 2 continued to sabotage registration for candidates in eight provinces in the south.

The eight provinces affected are Chumphon, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Trang, Krabi and Phuket - where the opposition Democrat Party, which is boycotting the elections, has wide support.

In Trang, about 500 anti-election protesters yesterday surrounded a sports stadium, forcing officials to cancel registration of candidates despite the presence of 300 police officers.

And for the third day in Phatthalung, protesters blocked the registration centre at a local school, locking the gates. Registration is supposed to continue until Wednesday.

The failure of registration in eight provinces out of 77 is unlikely to derail the elections, analysts say.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, after meeting election commissioners on Monday, said the government would ensure more security at registration venues in the southern provinces where the procedure has been temporarily suspended.

The baht on Monday fell again on worries over the political turmoil. It has lost 7.2 per cent of its value this year, and briefly sank to 32.96 to the US dollar on Monday, the lowest since June 2010.

Analysts say they are worried about violence in the days ahead.

In Bangkok on Monday, People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) supporters with brooms swept streets around the movement's sprawling rally site, ahead of what they say will be a massive demonstration later this week and continuing to the rest of the month, to "seize" the capital.

The anti-government PDRC has pledged to continue trying to derail the elections, saying the polls will only bring back the allegedly corrupt proxy rule of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra if reforms are not instituted first.



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