Thai army chief refuses to rule out military coup

BANGKOK - For the first time since the anti-government protests began almost two months ago, the Thai army chief has refused to rule out the possibility of a military coup.

Asked if there was any possibility of one, General Prayuth Chanocha retorted: "If there is a coup, will they listen? All these groups are Thai."

When asked again if he ruled out the possibility of a coup, Prayuth said, "That door is neither open or closed. Everything depends on the situation."

He added the military needed support so it could play an acceptable role and not be accused of resorting to old-fashioned tactics. "The army is at a difficult crossroads," he said. "We cannot go left or right - we have shown a red light to both sides."

Prayuth said that while the government and the anti-government protesters both insisted on their different paths, the army had to choose a straighter path to a peaceful solution.

He told reporters that during a meeting with his personnel, he had made it clear that all evidence of their activities needed to be recorded, so that a scenario similar to that during the protests in 2010 didn't occur. This would ensure any future investigations were able to proceed with ease. "In my view, a group of people instigated violence, which has hurt Thailand's majority. The majority are intent on resolving the country's political problems but another group likes to use violence.

"They might think that without violence, the country's problems cannot be solved and they cannot succeed. I cannot be sure, but it appears their actions are similar to those used in 2010. I'm not sure if this group took part in the (anti-Abhisit Vejjajiva government) protest," he said, calling on those who were allegedly using violence to end it.

However, Prayuth added that violence had also occurred because some police officers had lost their tempers, resulting in some violent scenes.

Prayuth also said shots fired on Thursday from a building near the Bangkok Youth Centre (Thai-Japan), along with the violence at Ramkhamhaeng University earlier this month needed to be thoroughly investigated.

Asked about the military's part in the upcoming MP candidacy registration, Prayuth said according to the law, soldiers would only be able to protect the area chosen for the registration of candidates.

Prayuth then requested that protesters return home to pray and pay their respects to their parents during the New Year festival, so that the situation calmed down.