Opposition to Thai coup simmers, ex-PM in "safe place"

Opposition to Thai coup simmers, ex-PM in "safe place"
Demonstrators hold placards above Thai Army soldiers during a protest in Bangkok.

BANGKOK - Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in a "safe place" on Saturday, an aide said, after being held by the army following a coup this week, as opposition to the army's takeover grew among her supporters and pro-democracy activists.

The army moved on Thursday after failing to forge a compromise in a power struggle between Yingluck's populist government and the royalist establishment, which brought months of sometimes violent unrest to Bangkok's streets.

The military detained Yingluck on Friday when she and scores of other people, most of them political associates, were summoned to an army facility in Bangkok. More people have been summoned this weekend, including some academics.

A senior officer told Reuters Yingluck could be held for up to a week and media reported she had been taken to an army base in Saraburi province north of Bangkok, but an aide denied that. "Now she's in a safe place ... She has not been detained in any military camp. That's all I can say at this moment," the aide said, declining to be identified.

A source from her Puea Thai Party added: "We can't say she is absolutely free because there are soldiers in the area, monitoring her." This source said several former ministers from her cabinet were being held in army facilities in Saraburi.

Army deputy spokesman Winthai Suvaree told a news conference that anyone being held would not be detained for more than seven days. He did not mention Yingluck.

Thailand's political woes are the latest chapter in a nearly decade-long clash between the Bangkok-based establishment and Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecommunications tycoon who broke the mould of Thai politics with pro-poor policies that won him huge support and repeated electoral victories.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and left the country after a 2008 graft conviction, but he remains Thailand's most influential politician and was the guiding hand behind the government of Yingluck, his sister.

Despite international calls for the restoration of democratic government, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has not promised a swift return to civilian rule, insisting there must be broad reforms and stability first.

"We must have economic, social and political reforms before elections," Prayuth told hundreds of civil servants on Friday in his first comments on his plans since the coup. "If the situation is peaceful, we are ready to return power to the people," he added.

But reforms could take many months and stability could be elusive.

Human Rights Watch said rights in Thailand were in "free fall".

 

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