Sun, May 25, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Leaders held ‘to think’: Thai army


A Thai activist gestures during an anti-coup rally outside a cinema in Bangkok yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Thailand’s coup leaders said yesterday that they would keep former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Cabinet members and antigovernment protest leaders detained for up to a week to give them “time to think” and to keep the country calm. They also summoned outspoken academics to report to the junta.

The moves appear aimed at preventing any political leaders or other high-profile figures from rallying opposition to the military, which seized power on Thursday after months of sometimes violent street protests and deadlock between the elected government and protesters supported by Thailand’s elite establishment.

For a second day, hundreds of anti-coup protesters defied the army’s ban on large gatherings and shouted slogans and waved signs outside a Bangkok cinema.

The demonstrators vowed to march to a nearby army base, but soldiers prevented them.

A few hours later, the protesters began walking to the Victory Monument, a major city landmark about 9km away. Rows of soldiers and police were lined up on a road near the monument to stop the marchers.

However, most of Bangkok was calm yesterday, and there was little military presence on the streets.

Deputy Thai Army spokesman Colonel Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said that all the detainees were being well-treated and that the aim of the military was to achieve a political compromise.

“This is in a bid for everybody who is involved in the conflict to calm down and have time to think,” Weerachon said. “We don’t intend to limit their freedom, but it is to relieve the pressure.”

The country’s military leaders also summoned an additional 35 people, including more politicians, political activists and, for the first time, outspoken academics, to “maintain peace and order.”

It was not immediately clear whether they would be detained.

One of those on the list, Kyoto University professor of Southeast Asian studies Pavin Chachavalpongpun, said by telephone from Japan that he would not turn himself in.

He said the summons meant the junta felt insecure.

“The military claiming to be a mediator in the Thai conflict, that is all just nonsense,” he said. “This is not about paving the way for reform and democratization. We are really going back to the crudest form of authoritarianism.”

The US suspended US$3.5 million in military aid on Friday, and US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington was reviewing a further US$7 million in direct US assistance. Washington also recommended that Americans reconsider any nonessential travel to Thailand.

The army says it launched the coup to prevent more turmoil after two days of peace talks in which neither political faction would agree to back down from its stance in the ongoing political crisis.

It was unclear yesterday exactly how many political leaders were being detained by the army.

Among the officials who showed up at an army compound in Bangkok on Friday were Yingluck, who was removed from office by a court earlier this month on nepotism charges, and her temporary replacement, Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, according to Yingluck’s aide Wim Rungwattanachinda.

Several Cabinet members as well as leaders of the antigovernment protests have been held since Thursday’s coup.

Thai Minister of Education Chaturon Chaisang, an outspoken critic of the military’s intervention in politics, remained in hiding.

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