BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Allegations by Thailand's prime minister that members of the opposition planned to attack senior officials are baseless and designed to deflect attention from a corruption investigation, one of the main opposition groups said on Friday (Nov 27).
Accusations of graft involving a park built to honour Thailand's monarchy are threatening to damage an anti-graft drive by the ruling junta, which seized power last year vowing to clean up government and protect royal prestige.
The graft accusations, levelled by some Thai media and opposition groups, have transfixed a country anxious over the declining health of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha accused the United Front for Democracy (UDD), which backed a government Mr Prayut toppled in a 2014 coup, of being behind a plot to attack government figures at a cycling event organised for Dec 11 to honour King Bhumibol.
Police are already investigating allegations of corruption surrounding the event.
UDD spokesman Thanawut Wichaidit said the accusations were meant to divert attention from allegations of irregularities in the funding of the 1 billion baht (S$39 million) Rajabhakti Park, which features giant statues of past Thai kings.
"This park corruption case is embroiling the army and the military government and allegations of irregularities persist in the media," Mr Thanawut said. "Red shirts would never cause trouble on a day of national importance," he said, referring to the name by which the group is commonly known.
A spokesman for the military government declined to comment.
Police said on Thursday they had uncovered a plot by opponents of the government to carry out armed attacks during national events.
Two men, a former policeman and a civilian, were arrested this week in connection with the alleged plot and arrest warrants have been issued for another seven people, police said.
The park issue and a major probe into a group of people who allegedly claimed links to the monarchy come at a time when the military government is cracking down on perceived royal defamation, with prosecutions skyrocketing since the 2014 coup.
The military government is also trying to revive an economy struggling to recover after 18 months of military rule. "The military is in the final stage of cancer," said Mr Thanawut. "It will kill itself because of economic mismanagement and because of allegations of corruption."