By Avudh Panananda
Military leaders appear to be on the horns of a dilemma over whether they should stay out of politics, while standing at the centre of the political landscape with opposing camps vying for their support.
In the face of escalating polarisation between the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been pestered by reporters to comment on the political situation.
As the two major parties try to sway sentiment and outwit one another, Prayuth opts for a survival strategy of sweet talk for all sides.
He has instructed his officers to be cordial to the coalition and opposition while staying on the sidelines as observers to the political tug of war.
His chief of staff, General Sirichai Distakul, is working hard to implement a myriad of government projects assigned to the Army. Meanwhile, his deputy, General Dapong Ratanasuwan has been in close contact with government opponents, particularly the Democrats and those in the People’s Alliance for Democracy.
The Army chief is keeping his cards close to his chest. In the Democrat-Pheu Thai spat over the request by Nasa to conduct weather research at U-tapao air base, he made ambiguous remarks that could be construed as pro-government but stopped short of debunking the opposition’s concern about regional security.
In light of the mushrooming mass rallies, the Internal Security Operations Command has turned a blind eye to the current agitation. The pro-government camp has free rein to mobilise the red shirts. The anti-government camp is equally free to counter the red rallies.
While opposing camps compete to stir up the masses, the question is how long the Army can afford to remain on the sidelines?
If politicians keep on fuelling social divisions, then it’s a matter of time before Prayuth is forced to show his cards.