Thailand's powerful army today refused to rule out military intervention to contain a political crisis, a major setback for the embattled premier who has pledged to go ahead with snap polls despite deadly clashes with anti-government protesters.
"The door is neither closed nor open," army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said, marking a shift in the stand of the military, which has repeatedly refused to get involved in the deepening crisis.
"Anything can happen. It depends on the situation...we are trying to do the right thing, in a peaceful way and we urge negotiations," he told a news conference here.
The army has staged 11 coups in Thailand's history since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.
The general's comments came as a blow for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who had sought the military's help for the February 2 polls in a bid to calm months of protests by the opposition aimed at her ouster and the installation of an un-elected "people's council".
The protesters alleged Yingluck's government is controlled her brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.
Yesterday, the government rejected a call by the Election Commission to delay the forthcoming elections.
"The Election Commission said holding elections will bring violence but the government believes delaying an election will cause more violence," Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said.
About 10 people have died since mid-October in clashes between police and protesters led by opposition Democrat Party leader Suthep Thaugsuban. The crisis forced Yingluck to dissolve parliament and call snap polls.
In the latest bout of violence, a policeman and a civilian died while 153 people were injured when violence erupted yesterday while demonstrators were trying to force their way into an election registration venue.
The Democrat Party has announced a boycott of the polls and vowed to block it, saying it will only return the Shinawatra clan to power.