06/27/2007, 00.00
THAILAND
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Military pledge suport for democracy

by Weena Kowitwanij
Peaceful march celebrating the 75th anniversary of the country’s constitution took place last Sunday even though the military still rule. Army chief pledges new elections for late this year.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – In a country under military rule since last September’s coup,  General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Chief of Security Council and Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, said he was certain that the country would soon enjoy peace and democracy.

His conviction is strong despite last Sunday’s pro-democracy march by thousands who took to the streets to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the country’s constitution and their opposition to the military’s power

In a TV interview, General Sonthi said he was never concerned that anti-coup demonstration—from the Sanam Luang or Royal Field Square to the Defence Ministry Headquarters in Ratchadamnoen —would end in violence.

“I saw some police-women giving out some water to the people,” he said. “I confirm that the government led by General Surayud Chulanont will try its best to organise early election, tentatively on November 25 instead of mid-December so that the Thai people will have a new government that will respect country, religion and king.”

But he said, in “order to bring peace to the nation it is necessary for government officials to go into remote areas, especially those who work with the poor in education, health, agriculture and social order.”

Asked about the situation in the southern provinces where sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims goes on unabated, he said that “the crisis spread when rebels got hold of weapons and openly declared their intention to fight government forces.”

“Against rising violence, which is a world-wide problem, I am convinced that prevention is the best strategy through proper intelligence gathering and security,” he explained. “We must maintain good relations with the residents of local villages. I believe a dialogue is possible but we must find the right people to pursue it with.”

Thailand’s existing constitutional monarchy was set up in 1932 by then King Prajadhipok. However for past 60 years the country has been governed by a succession of military governments interspersed with periods of parliamentary democracy.

In 1992 a popular revolt backed by the current monarch overthrew the military government of Suchinda Kraprayoon.

The democratic system that emerged was itself overthrown in September 2006. After that the ruling military junta pledged fresh new elections but so far as failed to organise them.

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