Thai junta claims support from China, Vietnam

Thai junta claims support from China, Vietnam

BANGKOK - China and Vietnam have expressed support for Thailand's new military government, an army spokesman said on Wednesday, as pro-army groups planned to demonstrate at the Australian Embassy for downgrading relations after last month's coup.

Several foreign governments have voiced disapproval of the coup, which saw General Prayuth Chan-ocha take power after months of political unrest that undermined the government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

"China's and Vietnam's ambassadors to Thailand met Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn yesterday and assured us that they still have a good relationship with Thailand and that they hope the situation will return to normal quickly," Yongyuth Mayalarp, a spokesman for the military's National Council for Peace and Order, told reporters.

The United States scrapped joint military programs with Thailand days after the May 22 coup while the European Union has urged the military to free political detainees and end censorship.

Australia downgraded its ties with Thailand on Saturday, imposed a travel ban on junta leaders and cut defence cooperation, the toughest measures taken by a foreign government since the change of regime.

Pro-military demonstrators were expected to gather outside the Australian Embassy on Wednesday to protest at what they see as foreign meddling in Thailand's internal affairs.

The coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment, dominated by the military, old-money families and the bureaucracy, and supporters of Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who are adored by the poor in the north and northeast.

"FRIENDS NOT FOES"

The army is determined to silence dissent and has summoned around 300 activists, journalists, academics and politicians since taking power two weeks ago.

Many have been detained for varying periods of time and, in order to be released, have had to sign statements that they will step away from politics and halt anti-coup activities.

The junta has deployed thousands of security forces across the country to search for weapons in a bid to crack down on armed groups on both sides of the political divide. It has ordered Thais who have "war weapons", including explosives and grenade launchers, to hand them in before June 10.

The order did not include registered handguns. On a per capita basis, Thailand has more guns than most countries in the world.

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