On Thursday, Gen Narongpan Jittkaewtae, the Army Chief, affirmed his commitment to non-intervention, stating that the term “coup” should not exist in people’s vocabulary.
Amidst concerns that the country may experience unrest after the election, Gen Narongpan spoke to the media in the lead-up to Sunday’s election. The army chief is set to retire on Sept 30.
When questioned about his worries regarding potential unrest that might provoke military response, he dismissed such concerns.
“I don’t worry. We have learned many lessons from the past,” responded Gen Narongpan.
“We have reached a point where democracy has to go ahead. Everyone should be mindful and avoid what should not be done.”
In response to questions about the possibility of another coup after the elections, Gen Narongpan advised journalists against bringing up such subjects as they could provoke discord.
“The term should not be used. It is not appropriate. I want reporters to remove it from your dictionary,” said the army chief.
When asked if the military should also exclude the term from their language, Gen Narongpan confirmed: “Of course, it’s removed.”
When asked to assure that the military, under his command, won’t act in a way that worries the public, Gen Narongpan said: “I cannot say whether the country will be peaceful. I mean that peace can only be achieved by everyone working together.”
“But I can assure you that what occurred [coups] in the past. The chance is zero now,” he added.
On being asked about his views on changes to the status quo, Gen Narongpan stated that change is an unavoidable factor, but should always aim to better things, not worsen them.
“The country needs to be peaceful so the economy can grow. But if we are in conflict and stir up unrest, the country will be in chaos, and people will be in trouble. Everyone must work together in the country’s best interests,” he asserted.
He also mentioned that he has encouraged military personnel to exercise their democratic rights in the upcoming Sunday elections.
Through all communication mediums, the military has been motivating all its personnel and their families to fulfill their responsibilities as good citizens by voting, he reported.
He also downplayed the attempts of certain political parties to swap conscription for voluntary recruitment if they secure power post-elections.
“They have the right to carry out their policy if they become the government, but the military also has the right to explain why conscription is necessary,” stated Gen Narongpan.
“Everyone has the right to agree or disagree [with conscription]. We can have different opinions. That’s normal,” he acknowledged.
When asked to comment on whether the Move Forward Party, a critic of the military, could be part of the governing coalition post-election, the army chief said: “That’s about the future. No one knows about it until after the election.”
“It is up to political parties to form a coalition, while military personnel are not political-office holders.”
Gen Narongpan also declared that he has laid down rules for the conduct of military personnel in the run-up to Sunday’s elections.
The army chief warned that it is illegal to wear T-shirts with political party names when entering a polling station.