Hoping to show things are getting back to normal, the military
also relaxed a night-time curfew brought in after it seized power in
a May 22 coup, and is expected to speed up efforts to get the
economy moving again after months of debilitating political
Data on Wednesday showed trade shrank in April and factory output
fell for a 13th straight month, underscoring the damage political
unrest has caused and the tough job the military government faces
reviving an economy on the brink of recession.
The Information Technology Ministry said it had blocked Facebook at
the request of the military to stem protests. But the site was back
up after about 30 minutes and the military denied involvement,
saying a technical problem was to blame.
The military has issued warnings about the spread of what it
considers provocative material on social media.
The junta's team of advisers includes a former defense minister,
General Prawit Wongsuwan, and former army chief General Anupong
The two men are towering figures in Thailand's military
establishment and have close ties to coup leader General Prayuth
Chan-ocha. All three are staunch monarchists and helped oust
Thaksin, who remains at the heart of the political crisis, in a 2006
A Reuters report in December revealed that Prawit and Anupong had
secretly backed the anti-government protests that undermined the
government of Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. She was removed
by a court on May 7 for abuse of power and the coup ousted remaining
ministers two weeks later.
It is not clear what powers the advisers will have, but their
appointment would suggest little prospect of compromise with the
SOME DETAINEES RELEASED
The military has sought to stifle opposition to its power grab,
detaining scores of politicians and activists and imposing
censorship on the media.
Deputy army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said 200 people summoned after
the coup had been detained but 124 of them had since been released.
Seventy-six were still being held, while another 53 people had not
responded to a summons.
Later, the army released at least 10 pro-Thaksin "red-shirt"
activists including their leader, Jatuporn Prompan.
Yingluck and Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister in a
rival government who led six months of protests against her, are
among those who have been released.
Some pro-Thaksin activists have also been detained in the provinces,
such as Chiang Mai in the north, the Shinawatras' hometown and a
hotbed of support, activists say.
Deputy army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the army might soon
release leaders of red-shirt activists, such as Jatuporn Prompan.
"Those released must tell us where they live and where they plan to
travel," Winthai said. "If they violate these rules they'll be
invited to meet us."
People being released are asked to sign a document saying they will
not organize rallies, he said.
There have been daily, peaceful protests against the coup in Bangkok
although the number of protesters dwindled to about 200 on Wednesday
from about 1,000 on Sunday.
A seven-hour curfew the army imposed after the coup has been
shortened to four hours, from midnight.
ECONOMY IN DOLDRUMS
The junta's new advisers also include Pridiyathorn Devakula,
overseeing the economy. A former central banker, he was finance
minister in an interim government after the 2006 coup, when strict
capital controls were introduced to hold down the baht, causing the
stock market to tumble 15 percent in one day.
[to top of second column]
Highlighting the task ahead, factory output fell 3.9 percent in
April from a year earlier, the 13th monthly drop in a row.
Commerce Ministry reported another slump in imports, down 14.5
percent in April from a year before as companies, unsure how the
politics would develop, stopped importing machinery and consumers
reined in spending.
Exports have not been able to offset the depression in the domestic
economy: they fell 0.9 percent in April, although the ministry said
it was hopeful for 5 percent export growth this year.
Thailand's gross domestic product shrank 2.1 percent in the first
quarter of 2014 as the anti-government protesters harassed
ministries, damaged confidence and scared off tourists.
The military 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.
Some economists think the outlook could improve under the military,
with the rice payments that will allow farmers to start spending
again and a vow that a new budget will be on time and new investment
plans all boding well.
NO ELECTION TIMETABLE, U.S. CONCERNED
General Prayuth has not set any timetable for elections, saying
broad reforms were needed first.
That may further complicate relations with foreign governments that
have called for a speedy return to democracy, an end to censorship
and the release of politicians, protest leaders, journalists and
"We're going to have to continue to calibrate how we'll work with
the government and military when they don't show any pathway back to
civilian rule," a senior U.S. official told Reuters in Washington.
"We're very concerned and there will be an impact on our
Thaksin has not commented on the coup except to say he was saddened
and hoped the military would treat everyone fairly.
The Shinawatras' strength is in the north and northeast, populous,
mostly rural regions that have won them every election since 2001.
Some Thaksin loyalists had vowed to resist a coup and the army and
police are hunting for weapons.
Many Bangkok voters support the establishment and approve of the
coup if it means ending Thaksin's influence. They say he is corrupt
and disrespectful to the monarchy, an accusation he denies.
(Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Orathai Sriring,
Manunphattr Dhanananphorn in Bangkok, Andrew R.C. Marshall and Matt
Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Robert Birsel and Alan
Raybould; Editing by Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie)
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