'One of the biggest political purges' in recent times

'One of the biggest political purges' in recent times
People hold signs and sing during a gathering of a pro-military group at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

SINGAPORE - The lists of those summoned by Thailand's junta are read out on television, and they are given just about half a day to report to the army compound. After they turn up, they are questioned for hours, then driven away in vans with tinted windows. Their mobile phones are taken away. And they disappear from public view.

While the junta has shifted its focus to reviving an economy battered by six months of political conflict since it seized control of the country last Thursday, it has not let up on the huge operation to snuff out dissent or resistance. Soldiers with sweeping powers under martial law are raiding homes and offices to round up a far wider list of people including prominent activists and academics.

The detentions, says the junta, are necessary to create a "sustainable" form of "peace and order". It hopes to make detainees "change their opinion" and gives the assurance that they will not be prosecuted after being released.

Army chief Prayuth Chan- ocha had said on Monday at his first press conference after the coup: "If you try to provoke the situation we will call you again.

Right now we ask you to stay calm. We have had these conflicts for nine years. We need to restore our country's and foreigners' confidence."

Observers call it one of the biggest political purges in recent times.

A Bangkok-based security analyst told The Straits Times: "At a political level, it's intended to purge the country of the Thaksin family, his cronies, his party and his influence."

Thaksin Shinawatra was the prime minister of Thailand until a military coup in 2006, but he continued to influence the country through his political and business networks. His sister, Yingluck, was made premier after the Puea Thai party's landslide victory in 2011, but was thrown out by the Constitutional Court on May 7.

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