BANGKOK (Reuters) - China and Vietnam have expressed support for
Thailand's new military government, an army spokesman said on
Wednesday, as pro-army supporters held a small gathering at the
Australian Embassy in protest against downgrading of relations after
last month's coup.
Several foreign governments have voiced disapproval of the coup,
which saw General Prayuth Chan-ocha take power after months of
political unrest that undermined the government of Yingluck
"China's and Vietnam's ambassadors to Thailand met Supreme Commander
General Thanasak Patimaprakorn yesterday and assured us that they
still have a good relationship with Thailand and that they hope the
situation will return to normal quickly," Yongyuth Mayalarp, a
spokesman for the military's National Council for Peace and Order,
Myanmar's foreign affairs ministry said it recognised Thailand's new
"Thailand is a sovereign state and the military government has been
endorsed by their king," Aung Linn, a director-general at Myanmar's
foreign affairs ministry, told Reuters on Wednesday.
"Of course we do recognise them."
China's foreign ministry had no immediate response to the report.
The United States scrapped joint military programmes with Thailand
days after the May 22 coup while the European Union has urged the
military to free political detainees and end censorship.
Australia downgraded its ties with Thailand on Saturday, imposed a
travel ban on junta leaders and cut defence cooperation, the
toughest measures taken by a foreign government since the change of
A handful of pro-military demonstrators gathered outside the
Australian Embassy on Wednesday to protest against what they see as
foreign meddling in Thailand's internal affairs. Some handed roses
to police guarding the embassy.
The coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict between
the Bangkok-based royalist establishment, dominated by the military,
old-money families and the bureaucracy, and supporters of Yingluck
and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who are adored by the poor in
the north and northeast.
"FRIENDS NOT FOES"
The army is determined to silence dissent and has summoned around
300 activists, journalists, academics and politicians since taking
power two weeks ago.
Many have been detained for varying periods of time and, in order to
be released, have had to sign statements that they will step away
from politics and halt anti-coup activities.
The junta has deployed thousands of security forces across the
country to search for weapons in a bid to crack down on armed groups
on both sides of the political divide. It has ordered Thais who have
"war weapons", including explosives and grenade launchers, to hand
them in before June 10.
The order did not include registered handguns. On a per capita
basis, Thailand has more guns than most countries in the world.
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However, the country in general has remained calm since the
bloodless coup. There is little military presence on the streets and
resistance to military rule has so far been peaceful.
Thailand's consumer confidence index hit its highest level since
January on hopes the military can bring the economy back from the
brink of recession. The economy shrank 2.1 percent in the first
quarter as political turmoil depressed demand.
The junta lifted a curfew on Tuesday in the resorts of Pattaya,
Phuket and Samui, in order to "relieve areas that are peaceful and
free from political protests" and to support Thailand's vital
The midnight to 4 a.m. curfew has not been lifted in Bangkok but the
junta seems determined to win over hearts and minds in the capital.
Supporters of the military are trying to hijack a gesture used by
demonstrators opposed to the coup, saying the three-fingered salute
signifies the ills of the deposed government, and not resistance to
The salute, inspired by the hit film "The Hunger Games", has been
flashed as a symbol of defiance at street protests in Bangkok since
the weekend. The military has warned demonstrators against making
Security forces detained at least seven people who joined flash mob
protests over the weekend and held up three fingers against the
junta, according to the ruling National Council for Peace and Order.
"We are monitoring those who use this signal but have no plans to
ban it yet," deputy army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told Reuters.
"But if there are gatherings of five people or more doing this
salute, then we will make arrests in some cases."
In its latest charm offensive, the army is putting on a concert on
Wednesday evening at Victory Monument, one of Bangkok's busiest
junctions and briefly the focus of protests after the coup.
"We want to show the public that the military is here to protect the
people and will do its utmost to ensure stability," Winthai said.
"Soldiers are friends not foes."
(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Erik de Castro in
BANGKOK and Aung Hla Tun in YANGON; Editing by Alan Raybould and
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