In a chilling move apparently aimed at neutralizing critics and potential opposition, Thailand’s new army junta ordered dozens of outspoken activists, academics and journalists to surrender themselves to military authorities.
The junta, which already is holding most of the government it ousted in a coup Thursday in secret locations against their will, said it would keep former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and others in custody for up to a week to give them “time to think” and keep the country calm.
Two days after the army seized power in the nation’s first coup in eight years, it also faced scattered protests that came amid growing concern over the junta’s intentions. Also Saturday, the military dissolved the Senate — the last functioning democratic institution left, and absorbed its legislative powers.
“Military rule has thrown Thailand’s rights situation into a free fall,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The army is using draconian martial-law powers to detain politicians, activists and journalists, to censor media, and to ban all public gatherings. This rolling crackdown needs to come to an end immediately.”
More than 150 people, mostly top politicians, have been detained incommunicado so far and banned from leaving the country, according to rights groups. Deputy army spokesman Col. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said they were all being well-treated and the military’s aim was to achieve a political compromise.
Weerachon said all those held have had their cellphones confiscated because “we don’t want them communicating with other people. We want them to be themselves and think on their own,” he said, adding that they need to “calm down and have time to think.”
“We don’t intend to limit their freedom — it’s to relieve the pressure,” he said.