By Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, now head of the Thai caretaker government, has expressed fears of a military coup if the massive protest called by the political opposition this week turns out to be violent.
Yingluck expressed her fears after Army Chief Gen. Prayudh Chan- ocha said that the military will dutifully protect civilians of varied political affiliations but at the same time stressed that the military will ensure that nobody will be physically harmed on the streets during the planned "Bangkok shutdown" scheduled for Monday.
Gen. Prayudh did not specify whether those who would possibly be harmed are anti-government protesters led by former Deputy Premier Suthep Thaugsuban or supporters of the prime minister.
Some observers said that although the Army chief had repeatedly dismissed speculations that he might opt for a coup to overthrow the caretaker government and prevent the holding of the Feb. 2 polls as demanded by the opposition, he had, however, not assured that such a situation would not happen at all.
Prayudh had called on the bickering politicians not to let the military decide "for everything," adding that problems must be solved in peaceful manner since "wrong solutions will be of no help to solve problems."
The general also admitted the military leaders had already learned their "lessons" from previous coups.
Yingluck, however, said she was concerned that the military might just declare a coup if violence would occur in Monday's massive protest, adding that she also shares the fears of some people that "some mysterious gunmen" might trigger violence.
Suthep and several former Democrat Party lawmakers have planned to block major intersections in Bangkok where they will set up makeshift platforms to launch verbal attacks against the Yingluck government and draw up followers, cut off power and water lines to the houses of acting Cabinet members and government offices.
Road traffic throughout the city is feared to be entirely paralyzed by the massive shutdown.
"All parties concerned are suggested to keep a peaceful environment and prevent any violence which might be instigated by an unknown third party during the planned shutdown. Street violence might finally prompt the military to come out and stage a coup. For his part, Suthep must be held accountable if such untoward incident eventually occurs," Yingluck said.
Fears of a military coup have heightened after a dozen battalions of Army troops, tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces and other combat gear were mobilized from the provinces and moved to the 11th Infantry Regiment on the northern outskirts of the capital.
First Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Varah Boonyasit quickly dismissed the rumored military coup as heresy. He explained that the movement of additional troops to Bangkok was part of their planed annual parade which will be held inside the barracks on Jan. 18, the Thai Armed Forces Day.
The parade will be held in honor of supreme commander Gen. Tanasak Patimaprakorn and Gen. Prayuth, both of whom are scheduled to retire at the end of September, according to the division commander.
Nonetheless, the mobilized army troops and tanks could be used in a fresh coup if the shutdown turns out to be violent as feared by the prime minister.
Deputy government spokeswoman Sunisa Lertpakavat even predicted that the coup might occur on Tuesday, a day after the planned " Bangkok shutdown."
Chatuporn Prompand, leader of the pro-government Red Shirts, said his followers will peacefully gather in all provinces throughout the country except in the capital, its outlying provinces and the entire southern region where the influence of the Democrat Party, which is boycotting the election, is still overwhelming.
"We will certainly rise up against a military coup if it ever this happens again. But we will not do anything to help make it happen," said the Red Shirts leader.
He said Red Shirts members are launching a nationwide campaign to encourage voters to go to the polls on Feb. 2 in order to promote democratic rule and prevent any attempt to thwart the right of the people to choose their leaders in a fair and free elections.
According to the constitution, a minimum of 95 percent of a total of 500 legislators in the House of Representatives, or 475 lawmakers, is needed to validate the opening of parliament and subsequent naming of a cabinet.