BANGKOK, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The head of Thailand's army warned Monday the country "will definitely collapse" if anti-government demonstrations produce further bloodshed.
"If there is any further loss of life, the country will definitely collapse and there won't be any winners or losers," Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a 10-minute, nationally televised address.
The leader of the Royal Thai Army stressed the nation's constitution is still in force and used the word "constitution" nine times.
Prayuth urged the anti-government protesters to consider whether their demonstrations will "end peacefully." He said "many sides" want to resort to violence to settle the conflict, in which at least 16 people have been killed and more than 650 have been injured since November, the Times said.
A 5-year-old girl was among those reported dead after unknown gunmen fire on supporters of the opposition People's Democratic Reform Committee during the weekend, the Bangkok Post reported.
Prayuth had sought to remain neutral in the political power struggle, the Times said, but appeared Monday to be distancing himself from the goals of the protesters.
"I would like to urge you to reconsider, compose yourselves and ask yourselves whether this would end peacefully," he said.
His comments came as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there is no place for violence in settling political issues in Thailand.
Thai authorities in January imposed tough security measures in response to growing political pressure from opponents trying to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.