Army won't interfere with next poll result: Thai Army Chief

General Chalermchai Sittisart, who has served as Royal Thai Army commander-in-chief since October 1.
PHOTO: The Nation

The army chief has vowed not to interfere with the results of the next general election even if the previous ruling political party wins in the national vote.

"Although the election in 2017 will result in the same old political party forming the government, all sides will have to accept the election results and the rules. The military will not overturn the election," General Chalermchai Sittisart, who has served as Royal Thai Army commander-in-chief since October 1, said.

Chalermchai seemed to be referring to Pheu Thai Party although he did not mention it by name.

He said yesterday that thanks to the new rules and regulations set by the post-coup government, he was convinced there would be no more coups in the future.

"We have learned lessons. And the government has set regulations and standards that could be applied to solve problems in the future. This would help prevent old situations from emerging again," the general said in an interview.

"Thai politics as a whole is not bad. If politics were that bad, our country would not have progressed to this point today. However, there could be some problems regarding certain individuals. It is not the political system that should be blamed," the Army chief said.

He expected the scrutinising system introduced under the new constitution to have an increased role in "bringing things on track".

The post-coup road map for a return to democracy calls for the next general election to be held within 2017, but observers have pointed to a number of factors that could delay the polls until 2018.

However, Chalermchai said things were going in accordance with the road map and that he saw no obstacles that could affect it.

"Also, the people want to go to vote," he added.

The Army chief also said there were "some people who do not want an election to be held" although he added that it would depend on whether eligible voters agree with those people's arguments.

He admitted yesterday that a large "show of force" by supporters of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra could result in postponement of the next election.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division on Political Office Holders is expected to issue its verdict around mid-2017 in a case against Yingluck, in which she is accused of criminal negligence in connection with her government's controversial rice-pledging scheme.

"I think it's useless to take to the streets and create disturbances. If that happens, the government and the NCPO will keep putting off the election," Chalermchai said.

But he said that given "the existing information we have", he was convinced that the election would be held as planned.

In May 2014, a coalition government led by Pheu Thai was overthrown in a military coup led by the then Army chief, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, following several months of political unrest that left scores of people dead and many hundred others injured.

Prayut is now serving as prime minister and head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Chalermchai, who also serves as NCPO secretary-general, maintained that the military has to |keep an appropriate distance from politics.

"Both groups have their paths to take. I am responsible for security matters and politicians |have their own responsibilities," he said.

Meanwhile, a recent public opinion survey has found that most respondents view Prayut, the prime minister, as the person who made people the happiest in 2016.

More than 80 per cent of the 1,249 people surveyed between December 20 and 30 said Prayut made them happiest, followed by 5.9 per cent who chose former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and 5.5 per cent opted for ex-PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, according to results of the Super Poll released yesterday.