Thai military summons 35 academics, activists

Thailand’s military also dissolves Senate a day after detaining 100 politicians including dismissed PM Yingluck Shinawatra

Thai military summons 35 academics, activists

World Bulletin/News Desk

The Thai military widened its net Saturday by summoning 35 academics and activists, a day after having ordered 155 politicians to report to them.

Of the 155 politicians, 100 are currently detained in various military camps, including dismissed prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The junta, having dubbed itself the National Council for Peace and Order, also announced Saturday evening the dissolution of the Senate -- the only standing legislative assembly, half of whose members are elected and the other half appointed.

No justification has been given for the move, with the junta chief and self-proclaimed prime minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, only saying that it "would make it easier to make necessary decisions."

The announced summons list consists of several scholars critical of the lese-majeste law -- which penalizes offenses against the Thai king or royal family. It includes renowned historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who has previously been charged for a plan to reform the monarchy, despite denying he ever proposed it be overthrown or insulted King Bhumibol Adulyadej personally.

Few of those summoned Saturday complied with the order and most are currently in hiding.

Authorities have strengthened border controls to block those being sought from leaving Thai territory. Since Friday, the land border with neighboring Laos has been completely closed to Thai citizens.

Human rights organizations have expressed shock over the summoning of academics.

"Military rule has thrown Thailand’s rights situation into a free fall," Brad Adams, Asia director at New York-based Human Right Watch, told the Anadolu Agency on Saturday. 

"The army is using draconian martial law power to detain politicians, activists and journalists, to censor media, and to ban all public gatherings."

Journalists critical of the coup and the lese-majeste law told the AA on condition that they would not be identified that they are expect to find themselves on an upcoming summons list.

The junta set up a Facebook page Friday where people can denounce journalists or anyone else who has criticized the army or the monarchy. The page has received 250,000 likes in 24 hours.

A military spokesperson defended the detention of politicians during a press conference Saturday. He said they were being "treated well" during their detention, which aimed "to give them time to think about the mess they have created."

Junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who appointed himself prime minister Friday, has also assumed the post of police chief, concentrating extensive power in his hands.

Several anti-coup demonstrations that erupted across Bangkok on Saturday gathered hundreds of protestors each, despite gatherings of more than five people being banned.

Outside a movie complex in northern Bangkok, 300 protesters shouted "military out" for hours while brandishing posters reading: "Now this is Thai spring" and "PM must come from elections."

Minor scuffles occurred between protesters and anti-riot police.

Thailand's political crisis began in November when Yingluck faced a wave of opposition protests after her government pushed through an amnesty that would have lifted the 2008 corruption conviction against her brother Thaksin, a divisive figure and ex-premier deposed in a 2006 coup. Confronted by massive demonstrations, the government withdrew the bill, but the opposition alleged corruption by the government and Shinawatra family.

Yingluck dissolved the parliament December 9 and called February 2 elections, which were disrupted by the anti-government movement -- the People’s Democratic Reform Committee -- who want an unelected "people’s council" to run Thailand until the political system is reformed.

She was then herself removed by the Constitutional Court on May 7 in relation to the transfer of a high-ranking civil servant in 2011.

Although military coups are relatively common in Thai society -- the latest being the 19th since the overthrow of the absolute monarchy -- the army has remained remarkably subdued since the "latest" crisis began.

Last Mod: 24 Mayıs 2014, 18:03
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