Military not to influence Thai national election: Army chief

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Bangkok, Nov 29 (UNI) The Thai defence forces will neither interfere in next month's national election nor topple any government formed by a party loyal to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in last year's military coup, Army Chief Anupong Paojinda said.

Gen Anupong, who played a key role in last year's military ouster of Mr Thaksin's government, said he was not worried by opinion polls showing that the People Power Party (PPP) formed by supporters of the former prime minister was likely to win the elections.

Pre-poll assessments show the PPP is ahead of its main rival the Democrat Party by a big margin and likely to emerge the single largest in the new Parliament.

The PPP leader, a controversial senior national politician, had lashed out at the army for its role in last year's coup and accused it of using grassroots propaganda and pressure tactics to keep his party from winning the December 23 elections.

Talking to senior Thai journalists yesterday, the army chief said he was not worried by speculation that a PPP-led government would seek to replace him.

''I'm not worried about my future. So other people should not worry about me. If there are people better than me, let them make the change,'' Gen Anupong said.

The army chief said the Thai society would not accept another military coup.

''How come people have come up with the idea that if a certain party comes to power, I will lead a coup to stop being removed.

That's the most stupid idea,'' he said, adding, ''but if I am affected by politics, then society should protect me.'' ''The armed forces cannot get involved in elections. We want to stay neutral and I have told my subordinates not to interfere in politics,'' he said.

Former army chief and now Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, who led last year's coup, too reassured the public that a PPP election victory would not lead to military interference in politics.

''We have to accept the people's judgement,'' he said.

Gen Sonthi said a likely PPP win should not be taken to mean a failure of the last year's military takeover.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont too denied that the poll outcome would lead to chaos. ''I think people are being too pessimistic,'' he said.

UNI

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