Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday he had been
formally recognised by King Bhumibol Adulyadej as head of a military
council in charge of the country. He warned he would use force if
protests flared up again.
Prayuth seized power last week, saying the army had to restore order
after nearly seven months of sometimes deadly demonstrations.
The junta has moved quickly to tackle economic problems, notably
preparing payments for hundreds of thousands of rice farmers that
the ousted government was unable to make.
The military has detained scores of politicians and activists and
anyone defying a summons could be jailed for up to two years. It has
censored the media and imposed a nightly curfew.
"We are very firm on our strategy when it comes to anti-coup
protesters," said deputy army spokesman Winthai Suvaree. "If they
break the law, we have to detain them. If they don't go home by 10
p.m. curfew time, we must take them in."
He said the army had found weapons in raids around the country in
"Most of these appear to belong to those linked to the 'red shirt'
movement," Winthai said, referring to supporters of ousted Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, former premier Thaksin
Shinawatra, who is at the heart of the long-running crisis.
Thaksin was deposed by the military in 2006 and has lived abroad
since 2008 to avoid a graft conviction but remains Thailand's most
influential politician, hugely popular among the poor, particularly
in the rural, populous north and northeast.
Some of his supporters had earlier vowed to fight any coup.
An army ranger was killed on Monday in Trat province near the
Cambodian border in a raid on suspected pro-Thaksin activists.
Authorities seized weapons and detained suspected activists late
last week in the northeast.
Central region army commander General Thirachai Nakwanich said the
army and police were hunting for illegal weapons.
"Anyone holding weapons without explicit permission will be
considered a criminal," he told reporters.
General Preecha Chan-ocha, a younger brother of army chief Prayuth,
told Reuters the army was "monitoring underground movements of red
"We believe activities are still being organised that could cause
political upheaval," he said.
Along with maintaining order, the military's immediate focus is
boosting a battered economy.
Prolonged protests by groups seeking to oust Yingluck have hurt
business confidence, halted much government spending and scared away
tourists. The economy is on the brink of recession after shrinking
2.1 percent in the first quarter.
The Ministry of Tourism said arrivals had plunged since the coup and
navy chief Narong Pipattanasai, a senior member of the military's
ruling council, said he wanted to let tourists know the situation
"You could even say it is more normal and peaceful than before," he
But pop star Taylor Swift called off her June 9 Bangkok show. She
gave no reason but told Thai fans on Twitter: "I'm so sad about the
concert being cancelled."
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Yingluck was removed by the Constitutional Court on May 7 and the
military seized power on May 22.
Thaksin or his parties have won
every election since 2001 and would probably do so again. The
royalist, pro-establishment protesters who took over parts of
Bangkok from last November wanted changes to the electoral system
and disrupted an election in February that was later annulled.
Prayuth gave no timeframe for a new election in a statement on
Monday. Thaksin has not commented to the media since the coup but
said on Twitter he was saddened.
The junta has based itself at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters, an
imposing colonial-style building set back across a lawn on a grand
A few kilometres east is Victory Monument, where protesters have
been gathering daily, defying martial law to denounce the coup and
call for elections.
Police and soldiers turned out in force on Monday to block several
hundred jeering protesters. There were scuffles but no serious
"Unit commanders and some others have loaded weapons but only where
necessary. Mostly we are trying to use other measures which have so
far been very effective, including announcements over loudspeakers,"
deputy army spokesman Winthai said.
Soldiers had taunted the crowd on Monday, saying they were being
paid to turn up. The soldiers also carped at foreign media, accusing
them of trying to damage Thailand.
At nearby Democracy Monument, a small crowd came with posters in
support of the army and handed soldiers roses.
Most Bangkok voters favour the establishment and approve of the coup
if it means getting rid of Thaksin. They believe that as well
enriching himself, he was disrespectful to the monarchy. He has
The crisis between the establishment and Thaksin comes amid anxiety
over the issue of royal succession. The king, the world's
longest-reigning monarch, is 86 and spent the years from 2009 to
2013 in hospital.
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn does not command the same devotion as
his father, but some Thaksin supporters have recently been
expressing their loyalty to the prince.
Some of Thaksin loyalists believe the military will introduce
changes to block the Shinawatras from politics once and for all.
(Additional reporting by Bangkok bureau; Editing by Alan Raybould
and Nick Macfie)
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