11 July 2024

Newly-appointed Army Commander-in-Chief General Narongphan Jitkaewtae announced today that he is dedicated to the protection of the three pillars of Thai society, comprising the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy, plus the people, as he told protest leaders of the Free People Movement to reform themselves before demanding reform of the Monarchy.

Asked about the possibility of a military coup, during his first full length interview with the media today, the army chief said the same question had been asked of all previous army chiefs and all of them had given answers.

He said that the chance of a military coup is zero, assuming that no one from any group creates a condition for violent conflict, adding that the Supreme Commander General Chalermphol Srisawat also answered this question yesterday, as he urged all parties in Thai society to be constructive and to get rid of all the conditions that fuel violent conflict.

In his address to division commanders today, General Narongphan said that the military is answerable to the Government and the Defence Minister. Military officers are government officials, not politicians and political problems must be solved by political means, he said.

Pressed by reporters whether his statement amounts to a promise that there will be no military coup during his three-year stint as the army chief, General Narongphan said “There is no chance (of a putsch).  I think the situation in Thailand does not warrant it because we are the best country.  We can see that our country has the most freedom and is the most plentiful. Many people want to live here, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Commenting on recent protests, during which the Monarchy was criticized by some protest leaders, the army chief said that protesters have the right to express their views freely, in accordance with the Constitution, but their free expression must not violate the law or trespass on the rights of others.

Regarding the 10-point manifesto for the reform of the Monarchy, as demanded by the Free People Movement, General Narongphan suggested the protest leaders look at themselves in the mirror and start self-reform first, as he cited the teaching of a late but highly revered monk; Somdet To, about a six-sided mirror where people must look at all its sides, not just the side that reflects their positive aspects.

Asked whether he is concerned that the protest, planned for October 14th, will turn violent, the army chief responded “What violence?  All parties concerned have pledged that they will not resort to violence, so how can violence occur?” adding that the police are in charge of maintaining peace and order.

Asked how can the military protect the three pillars of Thai society and the people, the army chief evaded the question by telling the media not to be too preoccupied with the issue and to take a rest.