BANGKOK - Around 15 Thai political leaders allied to the ousted government plan to establish a movement outside Thailand to lead a campaign of civil disobedience to military rule, two members of the group said on Thursday.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power on May 22 and has since led a crackdown that has stifled dissent and silenced the "red shirt" supporters of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The military has detained many politicians and activists and demanded as a condition of release that they sign documents stating they would avoid politics and halt anti-coup activities.
If the plan proceeds, the group would represent the first attempt to mount organised opposition to military rule. The two activists said they had yet to formulate exactly what measures the group would use, but said they would be peaceful and would aim to fill the leadership vacuum among anti-coup elements.
"We believe democracy in Thailand has been systematically destroyed," said former government minister and red-shirt founding member Jakrapob Penkair (right in photo) in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh, the capital of neighbouring Cambodia.
"People have been chastened, hunted and bullied with no sense of fairness, justice or decency. We aim to create an organisation for all groups protesting the coup inside and outside Thailand. This would be a non-radical group using civil disobedience."
Thaksin, who lives in exile, is not involved in the movement, said both Jakrapob and a second member of the group, fugitive former member of parliament Sunai Julapongsathorn (left in photo).
It is unclear how much momentum the movement would gain among those opposed to the junta without the backing of Thaksin, who revolutionized Thai politics and commands the loyalty of millions in the populous north.
The coup was the latest twist in nearly a decade of confrontation between Thaksin and the Bangkok-based royalist establishment, which sees him as a threat to their interests.
Thaksin has given no guidance to his supporters since the military seized power. The former prime minister has effectively funded and controlled the red shirt movement from self-imposed exile since fleeing a 2008 conviction for abuse of power. He was ousted by the military in a previous coup in 2006.
"We will advance with or without him," said Jakrapob, a former spokesman for Thaksin. "He's not involved and had no influence in setting this up."
Jakrapob was forced to resign as a minister in May 2008 after being accused of violating Thailand's strict lese-majeste laws and has lived in Cambodia for some time.