Thailand's military offers to help with a fair election on February 2

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 4:38am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 4:38am

Thailand's military offered yesterday to help the politically polarised country hold a "fair and clean" election next year, suggesting the armed forces may play a role in a vote aimed at ending protests seeking to topple the government.

The idea was raised at a forum organised by the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who last week called an election for February 2.

General Nipat Thonglek, the Defence Ministry's permanent secretary, said at the forum: "The military wants to see the February 2 election. If there are signs that the election will not be fair, the military is ready to make it fair and clean."

It's unclear how the military would do that. Nipat did not elaborate, but armed forces chief General Tanasak Patimapragorn said on Saturday that he wanted to see the general election take place and that there should be "a central panel" to help educate the public about free and fair elections.

Although army leaders have expressed neutrality in the crisis, the military has a long history of intervening in politics in support of the traditional Bangkok elite.

Military sources say protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban is backed by two powerful retired generals, former defence minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and former army chief General Anupong Paochinda.

The chances of the election taking place may become clearer at the start of this week when the opposition Democrat Party, decides whether to take part.