Thai Army chief lashes out at student protests
Bangkok, Aug 5 (efe-epa).- The head of the Thai Army General Apirat Kongsompong on Wednesday criticized the students who have organized a series of protests in recent weeks demanding democratic reforms, whom he accused of “hating the nation”.
“COVID-19 can be cured, but the disease of hating the nation is incurable,” Apirat said during a speech at the Royal Academy of Cadets in Chulachomklao, in Nakhon Nayok province, after which he added that “still There is no vaccine for the disease of hating the nation, but it is necessary to educate young people from their childhood.”
The conservative and ultra-monarchist general made his speech two days after a student-organized demonstration demanding constitutional reforms, an end to the army’s interference in the country’s political life, and even criticized the monarchy for demanding that there be a limit to the power of King Vajiralongkorn.
Criticism of the monarch is rare in Thailand, due to the power of the Royal House and the lese majesty law, one of the strictest in the world, which punishes insults to the king with sentences of up to 15 years in prison.
For his part, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, a former army chief who took power in a 2014 coup and now rules after winning an election last year, asked students on Tuesday to “not wreak havoc” and noted that “everyone must understand the process to change the Constitution,” which was written when he was leading the military junta in power.
The current wave of protests in Thailand, calling for the dissolution of Parliament and democratic reforms to end the hegemony of the country’s pro-monarchy and ultra-monarchic elites, began on Jul. 18 in Bangkok and, since then, other demonstrations have been called in the capital and other cities such as Ubon Ratchathani (northeast) or Chiang Mai (north).
In addition, anti-government students oppose impunity for these disappearances and the favorable treatment given to millionaires such as Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, one of the Red Bull heirs who the Prosecutor’s Office released last June from all the charges of causing the death of a policeman in 2012.
Exercising a profound political and economic influence in Thailand, and maintaining a close relationship with the Royal Household, the Armed Forces have seized power in a total of 13 coups, not counting another nine failures, since the abolition of the absolute monarchy in 1932.
The Thai army is divided into several factions and in recent years the King’s Guard has been gathering power, closely linked to King Vajiralongkorn, who acceded to the throne after the death in 2016 of his father – the revered Bhumibol Adulyadej. EFE-EPA