Thai Army Chief Issues Veiled Election Endorsement

Posted June 15th, 2011 at 7:55 am (UTC-5)
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Thailand's army chief is urging the public to elect “good people” and defend the king in next month's national elections in what is seen as a veiled endorsement of the ruling pro-monarchy Democrat party.

In a late Tuesday broadcast on military television stations, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said security services have found widespread evidence of disrespect for the country's revered monarchy. He urged voters to use their best judgment to defend the institution and elect people who will run the country “efficiently.”

The general also said that if people keep electing the same politicians they will not see any improvement. Parties linked to the opposition Puea Thai party, which is leading in opinion polls, received the most votes in the last four elections but were removed from power through judicial and parliamentary maneuvers.

Thailand's military has a long history of interfering in politics, having mounted 18 coups or attempted coups since 1932. Prayut said the military will remain neutral in this year's July 3 balloting.

The Puea Thai party is headed by political novice Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and is living in exile to avoid imprisonment on corruption charges that he says are politically motivated.

The Associated Press on Wednesday quoted from a U.S. diplomatic cable from November 2009 in which Eric John, the U.S. ambassador in Thailand at that time, identified Yingluck as a potential political star.

In the cable, John said Yingluck had become far more poised than in the past and had spoken with confidence about the party's strategy and goals. It said a Puea Thai official jokingly referred to her as Thailand's next prime minister.

The AP said the cable was among more than 2,000 diplomatic messages originally obtained by the WikiLeaks organization.