Red shirt leaders warn appointed PM could mean 'civil war'

Bangkok: Supporters of Thailand’s besieged government have warned of civil war as the country’s army chief said the military is ready to act but only as a last resort to end worsening political unrest.

Pro-government red shirts leader Jatuporn Prompan told thousands of supporters massing on the outskirts of the Thai capital that if state agencies bend to the demands of anti-government protesters and install their own prime minister, “we will escalate our fight . . . we will not stand for it".

Since anti-government protesters took to the streets last November, red shirt leaders have urged their supporters to show restraint, fearing confrontation would prompt intervention by the military.

Anti-government leader Suthep Thaugsuban, wanted on charges of treason, has set up headquarters with the permission of the army at Government House, Thailand’s seat of power, and is demanding that Thai courts and the Senate appoint a new prime minister by Monday.

He warned that if his demand is not fulfilled his movement would do “something” to make it happen.

Mr Jatuporn said appointing an un-elected prime minister “will inflict crisis on the nation, because the only solution for Thailand is democracy under the king as head of state".

“I want my voice to be heard by the presidents of three courts and the Senate . . . that you are going to create disaster in the nation,” he said. “You are going to create a serious crisis that could lead to civil war that no one wants to see.”

Thailand’s first woman prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was removed from office last week by judges of the Constitutional Court in a ruling her supporters said was part of a “judicial coup” orchestrated by establishment figures in Bangkok.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the military will not act in response to different calls asking it to intervene or stage a coup.

“All those involved must do their duty to find a way out of the crisis by using the law as a tool to end the crisis, not to fight one another,” he said. “We will always be there for the country and people to lean on, but let us be the last resort.”

A military crackdown on Red Shirt protests in 2010 left at least 90 people dead and hundreds injured.

The conflict comes at a time of deep anxiety over the issue of royal succession. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, was hospitalised from September 2009 until August 2013.

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