Gen. Prayuth Chan—ocha did not rule out the possibility of a coup, saying "That door is neither open nor closed," when asked by reporters whether an army intervention was likely.
Thailand’s army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan—ocha on Friday urged both sides in the country’s bitter political dispute to show restraint but, for the first time since the crisis began last month, did not rule out the possibility of a coup.
“That door is neither open nor closed,” Gen. Prayuth Chan—ocha said when asked by reporters whether an army intervention was likely. He didn’t immediately elaborate.
Thailand has been wracked by two months of political tensions and occasionally violent street protests pitting the Government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra against protesters seeking to oust her.
The army has staged 11 successful coups in the country’s history, so its intentions are being watched carefully.
On Thursday, demonstrators seeking to disrupt elections scheduled for Feb. 2 battled with police in clashes that left two people dead.
At the same time, the election commission called for a delay in polls, a blow to Ms. Yingluck, who expects to win them handily thanks to her support in the north and northeast of the country.
Gen. Prayuth said the army had shown “red traffic lights to both sides so things will calm down.”
“You ask, ‘Who wins?’ Who wins?’ No one,” he said.
Police have made no move to arrest the protest movement’s ringleader, Suthep Thaugsuban, who is demanding the country be led by an unelected council until reforms can be implemented and vowing to thwart the polls by civil disobedience. Authorities have to tread carefully, as a crackdown would likely provoke greater violence and chaos.
The current tensions date back to 2006, when Yingluck’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled in a military coup. The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a proxy for Thaksin, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail time for a corruption conviction but still wields influence in the country.
Mr. Thaksin or his allies have won every election since 2001.