Bangkok: Thailand`s powerful army on Friday refused to rule out a coup amid an escalating political crisis, a major setback for the embattled premier who has pledged to go ahead with snap polls despite deadly clashes between police and anti-government protesters.
"The military does not shut or open the door to a coup," army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said, marking a shift in the stand of the military, which has so far 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 said.
"The military is now adhering to peaceful means and trying to place itself in a neutral position, not taking sides. We are not doing anything to interfere with the work of the authorities, while looking to take care of the people," Prayuth was quoted as saying by Bangkok Post.
The military will do what it can to prevent violence, he said. "We want the two sides to stop creating further conflict."
The army has staged 11 coups since Thailand 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".
About 10 people have died so far in violence. The crisis forced Yingluck to dissolve parliament and call snap polls.
The protesters allege Yingluck`s government is controlled her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said some ruling Pheu Thai Party members would prefer another coup to a regime dictated by the agenda of the anti-government protesters.
"They would prefer seeing the military tear up the constitution" to seeing the future of the country in the hands of "those people coming from nowhere", Surapong said.
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.