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Army chief calls on PM to resign

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October 17, 2008

Thailand Political Stalemate:
Army chief calls on PM to resign

Thai military leaders on Thursday pressured Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to step down to take responsibility for the brutal clashes between police and anti-government protesters last week, reported Kyodo news agency.

All the armed forces leaders led by Supreme Commander Gen. Songkitti Chakkabatra together with Police Chief Pacharawat Wongsuwan gave a rare joint interview to a private television station Thursday in which Army Commander in Chief Anupong Paochinda appealed to the government to take responsibility for the bloody clashes that left two people dead and almost 500 others injured including dozens of police.

"If I were the prime minister, I would have gone. (I) won't stay on, stay for what. The country has been damaged," Anupong told Thailand’s Channel 3 evening news.

He said any government that ordered such a brutal crackdown against the people would be illegitimate to stay in power, saying the hatred has spread to the police and medical institutions.

"Responsibility has to be taken for what has been done because no government can live on the pool of blood," Anupong said, adding that it was only an appeal.

Songkitti said all the armed forces leaders supported the opinion of Anupong.

Responding to a question about who ordered the crackdown, the police chief said a comprehensive investigation should be conducted and added that "all police are duty bound to work under the command of the prime minister and the Cabinet resolution as clearly stated by law."

It has been widely debated how gas could badly wound many protesters. Some of them lost limbs in the clashes and one woman lost an eye, according to a report released by the Public Health Ministry.

Pacharawat said a full investigation must be made to answer this question. Police told reporters after the October 7 clashes they used Chinese-made tear gas.

Asked if a coup is imminent, Anupong said, "Not now. All the armed forces leaders and the public at large both disagree."

However, he added that if further bloodshed occurred a "suspension of power" could occur. Thailand has experienced 18 coups since 1932, when the country turned into a constitutional monarchy.

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