Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Thai junta bans political meetings, restricts media

CRACKDOWN Thai media expressed concern after the coup leaders tightened control on the press, banned new political parties and continued their purge of Thaksin loyalists


Thailand's new military leaders, who overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and are moving to purge his followers, yesterday banned political party meetings and the establishment of new parties.

With Thaksin lying low in London, the coup makers also moved to place the tycoon-turned-politician's vast assets under scrutiny, amid mounting calls for his prosecution for alleged corruption.

Thaksin said in London he would take a "deserved rest," and urged the military to quickly arrange for new national elections.

Army commander General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin has said he would serve as de facto prime minister for two weeks whereupon the junta, which calls itself the Council of Administrative Reform, will choose a civilian to replace him. A constitution is to be drawn up and elections held in one year's time.

Thai media yesterday voiced concern over efforts by coup leaders to slap limits on press freedom as the generals mulled whether to stop them carrying expressions of public opinion.

"I want to know how free people are to express their opinions," an official from Chula radio, a university broadcaster, told the generals during a nearly two-hour meeting.

Army officials said they wanted television stations to stop broadcasting text messages from viewers, and to stop running other expressions of public opinion.

But General Palangoon Klaharn said the military would consider allowing TV stations just to screen the text messages before airing them.

The political bans announced on all Thai television stations yesterday are the latest moves by the junta to tighten control, even though no open opposition has surfaced to its Tuesday night takeover. It has also banned public gatherings of over four people and placed restrictions on the media.

The coup leaders, meanwhile, continued their purge of Thaksin's loyalists, bringing in Cabinet ministers Newin Chidchob and Yongyuth Tiyapairat for questioning.

Earlier, the junta said that Deputy Prime Minister Chitchai Wannasathit and Thaksin's top aide, Prommin Lertsuridej, had been detained. The Nation newspaper yesterday published a 100-name "watch list" of additional politicians, business people and others close to Thaksin who could be investigated.

The junta empowered Auditor-General Jaruvan Maintaka to investigative government corruption, which could lead to the confiscation of Thaksin's assets.

The US government, the EU and some Asian governments yesterday criticized the coup as a step backward for democracy.

Also see story:
Exiled Thai Muslim welcomes coup

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