Thai military ramps up 'attitude adjustment' for critics

BANGKOK - A prominent leader of the opposition Red Shirt movement and a former minister Friday became the latest critics of Thailand's junta forced to report to barracks for "attitude adjustment" as the military ramps up its campaign against dissent.

Nattawut Saikuar, secretary-general of the movement loyal to ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra, and Pichai Naripthaphan, a former energy minister in her government, were both ordered to appear before the military after publicly criticising the regime.

So-called "attitude adjustment" sessions are used by the military to haul in those deemed to be uncooperative with Thailand's generals, who imposed martial law and took over in a coup last May.

At least five people - three former ministers, a Red Shirt leader and Yingluck's lawyer - have now been ordered to report this week.

Thailand's junta has moved swiftly to stamp out any renewed criticism of their rule following the retroactive impeachment of Yingluck last week and after a top US diplomat made critical comments on Monday that infuriated the generals.

The military insist the summons are simply invites - though in reality any refusal to cooperate would likely lead to significant censure.

"Please use the word invite," General Udomdej Sritabutr, army chief and a key junta leader told reporters at Government House.

"We ask for their cooperation... and if they don't understand we will invite them again," he added.

Earlier this week junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha made it clear he would not tolerate those who spoke out against the regime, adding he would use punitive measures including banning critics from travelling abroad and having their assets investigated or seized.

During the same briefing Prayut, who is also prime minister, joked that reporters who continued to ask question that were not "constructive" might also be summoned.

The increase in "attitude adjustment" sessions comes amid a rocky patch for Thai-US relations following a recent visit by Daniel Russel, the most senior US official to travel to the kingdom since the coup.

Russel held meetings with junta officials and Yingluck - but not Prime Minister Prayut - and delivered a speech warning that the military's pursuit of Thailand's first female premier risked being perceived as "politically driven".

Washington's top envoy in Bangkok pending the appointment of a new ambassador - Charge D'Affaires W. Patrick Murphy - was promptly summoned to the foreign ministry to explain Russel's comments.

And Thailand's junta-stacked rubber stamp parliament Friday said they also wanted Murphy to appear before them.

"We have verbally contacted the embassy and a written invitation will be sent soon," Bilaipbhan Sampatisiri, chairwoman of NLA foreign relations committee, told AFP.

Thailand's generals say they were forced to seize power to end months of violent street protests against Yingluck's government - part of a decade of political conflict that broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist elites, backed by parts of the military, against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin.

Parties led by or aligned to the Shinawatras have won every election in Thailand since 2001.