On 17 April, Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesperson for the Army and the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), said that the authorities had retrieved only vehicles, but had yet to be handed weapons which had been seized by the red shirts. He was concerned that agents provocateurs would use those weapons to put the blame on both the authorities and the red shirts.
He pleaded with the red-shirt leaders to return the weapons which they had piled up on stage to show to the crowd. Complaints had been filed with police. To be in possession of war weapons is a legal offence, he said.
Word has spread that soldiers harboured ill feeling against the red shirts. He said that all personnel had feelings, and it was normal that they felt sorry for their colleagues who were injured or killed. But he insisted that military personnel did not harbour resentment against the people. They saw the red shirts as Thais, not enemies. He appealed to the red shirts to hold the same view toward the authorities.
He defended the authorities involved in the clashes last Saturday by claiming that they had tried to enforce the law and followed proper procedures. That things had gone wrong was not because of the authorities, but the terrorists who mixed in with the red shirts.
To deal with the terrorists among the red shirts, the CRES was trying to ask the red shirts to leave the protest area. If they stayed on, it meant that they were protecting the terrorists. Now the CRES was making preparations in both forces and weaponry.
Asked whether the person who gives orders will take liability for what happens [in light of Abhisit’s appointment of Army Chief Gen Anupong to be more directly involved in CRES operations], Sansern said that everybody was responsible for their own job.
‘Deputy PM Suthep takes responsibility as Director of the CRES. The Army Chief takes responsibility as Head of Operations who will give orders to the troops,’ Sansern said.
He said that the structure of the CRES had not been changed, except that the line of command was shortened. Instead of having to report to Deputy PM Suthep and ask for approval, the Army Chief can give orders right away. However, in practice, the Army Chief has to report to the Deputy PM before giving orders.
Asked whether the appointment was meant to force Gen Anupong to do something, Sansern said that it should not be viewed that way. ‘We are just trying to tighten the line of command and make it quicker to respond to the situation.’
In response to former Army Chief Gen Chaiyasit Shinawatra, a cousin of Thaksin, who had said that the army’s operation on 10 April was against international practice as it was carried out at 6 pm, Sansern said that this was not correct, as the operation started in day time. The night time posed as much a problem for the troops as for the protesters. The troops did not do anything at 6.15 pm, as they had already secured their positions. The clashes after that were caused by the red shirts attempting to repulse the troops.