Thailand coup: Military junta says it will not prosecute detainees

Anti-coup protesters scuffle with Thai soldiers ahead of a planned gathering in Bangkok on May 24, 2014. - PHOTO: AFP
Anti-coup protesters scuffle with Thai soldiers ahead of a planned gathering in Bangkok on May 24, 2014. - PHOTO: AFP

Thailand's junta said on Sunday that the over 100 politically linked individuals being detained by the military will not be charged, and will be set free after a week.

Those with outstanding warrants, however, will be handed over for prosecution, it added.

Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak, a spokesman for the junta, said that the detainees will be "free to go live their normal lives" but they will be closely observed if they continued to be "directly involved in the conflict".

"We have to be very careful," he said, in case they "send any provocative message".

Among those being detained since Friday are former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, her sister Yaowapa Wongsawat, as well as many members of the former Cabinet that was toppled after army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in a coup on Thursday.

In a widening purge of individuals linked to the Shinawatra family, as well as those critical of the coup, Gen Prayuth has assumed all lawmaking powers and summoned about 200 individuals to army premises. Many who turned up have been held incommunicado, while those who fail to do so face prosecution.

Meanwhile, soldiers nationwide are cracking down on activists in the "red shirt" movement, which prior to this has vowed to resist if the military ever staged a coup.

Col Werachon said the junta, which calls itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), was seeking a "common understanding" among all parties.

"We are not so insensitive that we do not understand the implications of our actions," he said. But Thailand was facing a "crisis" caused by the "social divide".

"We do not hope that (in) one week would be able to resolve everything but at least that one week would be the beginning of the common understanding," he said.

Analysts expect the clampdown to eventually trigger a larger comeback from the "red shirts", whose leaders have steadily being rounded by military since Thursday.

The red shirts form the core support group of Thaksin Shinawatra - Yingluck's brother - who helmed Thailand until deposed by a military coup in 2006. The tycoon was accused of retaining influence over the country from abroad - where he lives to avoid a jail term for a graft-related conviction. He commands loyalty in the populous northeast and north of the country but is reviled by the royalist elite and Bangkok middle class.

Meanwhile, NCPO said that Thaksin's son Panthongtae - who was pictured on social media being escorted by a soldier on Saturday - has been released.

The military spoke to him to achieve a "common understanding" on "what he should do at the moment and what he should not do", said Col Werachon.

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