Thai army summons politician who lambasted junta's 'sexism'

An opposition politician was summoned by Thailand's junta after berating a senior general for making sexist remarks against Yingluck Shinawatra (above).
An opposition politician was summoned by Thailand's junta after berating a senior general for making sexist remarks against Yingluck Shinawatra (above).PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand's junta on Wednesday (March 2) summoned an opposition politician for "attitude adjustment" after he berated a senior general for making "sexist" remarks about ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

Military officials said Watana Muangsook, a prominent figure in the Pheu Thai party that was toppled by the 2014 army takeover, would be held in custody for up to seven days.

His detention follows a Facebook post attacking the Thai junta's deputy leader for saying that soldiers continued to photograph Yingluck, two years after she was toppled from office, because she is good-looking.

"The soldiers took photos of Ms Yingluck probably because she is pretty," General Prawit Wongsuwon said. "It's not a big deal. Don't think too much about it or be anxious about it."

In a post calling on the military to cease their monitoring of Yingluck, Watana said it was "unbelievable to hear such comments" by Prawit. "They were sexist comments," he added.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday (March 2) General Prawit confirmed Watana had been "invited to talk" - the Thai junta's Orwellian euphemism for a period of compulsory detention - for "expressing false information".

"The invitation is not related to him blaming me but he expressed an opinion that misled society, so we invited him for talks," Prawit said.

Since seizing power in May 2014 the junta has crushed dissent, banning political discussion, locking up opponents and dramatically increasing prosecutions under laws covering lese majeste, sedition and computer crime.

So-called "attitude adjustment" sessions have also been instituted, with critics arbitrarily detained by the military - often for days.

They are released once they sign a form promising to refrain from criticising authorities, sometimes under the threat of asset seizures.

According to local rights group iLaw, which monitors detentions, more than 800 people have been ordered to attend such sessions since the coup.

While junta chief and Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is very much the frontman for Thailand's coup, his colleague Prawit is seen as an equally influential backroom operator.

A former army chief and defence minister, Prawit is often described as the "Big Brother" of the Eastern Tigers, a clique of powerful generals who were prominent in both the 2014 and 2006 coups.

Prawit is not alone in making gaffes about women.

Prime Minister Prayut had to apologise in 2014 for comments suggesting beautiful foreign women wearing bikinis in Thailand should not expect to be safe, following the brutal rape and murder of a British backpacker.