Coup leader warns of crackdown on dissent

Coup leader warns of crackdown on dissent
Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha is accompanied by his officers as he addresses reporters at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok.

SINGAPORE - Striking an uncompromising stance after winning the endorsement of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha warned that he may crack down on protests even as dissent against his seizure of power showed no sign of abating.

A 10pm-to-5am curfew imposed since last Thursday would go on indefinitely as the junta continues its purge of what it deems to be anti-establishment figures across the country.

Meanwhile, 11 leaders of the protest movement that had spent the past six months trying to topple the now deposed Puea Thai party-led government were released from detention yesterday.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban was promptly indicted on murder charges over his role in a deadly crackdown on anti-government "red shirt" protesters in 2010, when he was deputy prime minister. He was freed on bail.

Puea Thai members, meanwhile, were among other individuals who continued to be summoned by the military to be questioned and then detained.

General Prayuth, holding his first press conference since Thursday's coup, warned he may use force on protesters who yesterday massed at one of the biggest intersections in Bangkok despite the pre-emptive suspension of public transport facilities nearby.

"We do not wish to fight with anyone," the army chief, dressed in a white ceremonial uniform and flanked by other military officers in the junta, said gruffly. But "if this carries on, we will need to enforce the law", he added.

Earlier yesterday, Gen Prayuth said the King had endorsed him as the leader of the military council overseeing Thailand, giving him legitimacy in a country where the monarch is widely revered.

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