Thailand coup: Ousted leaders could be held for 'up to a week'; Yingluck being treated well

Thai deputy army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwari (right) speaks during a press conference at Army Club in Bangkok on May 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Thai deputy army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwari (right) speaks during a press conference at Army Club in Bangkok on May 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - The military said on Saturday that leaders of the ousted government and other prominent political figures would be "detained for up to a week" and former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is being treated well.

"They would be detained for up to one week depending on how directly they were involved (in Thailand's political turmoil)," an army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree told a press briefing. It was the first press briefing by the mlitary since it seized power on Thursday.

He said another 35 names were added on Saturday to the list of 155 people described as "drivers of the conflict'' who should report to the military. The new list includes several academics, among them lecturers from the elite Thammasat University who have publicly called for reform of the country's harsh lese majeste law which hands a stiff jail sentence to anyone deemed to have insulted the monarchy.

The army also gave the assurance that Ms Yingluck, who is in detention, is being treated well. Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha is "a gentleman and an army officer'' and had ordered that as a former leader of the country, Ms Yingluck must be well looked after, Colonel Werachon said.

When asked about the namel list, he said "those involved directly with the conflict will be detained; those that are not directly linked, will be under observation and have to report to officials if they want to move around''.

"We have to give them some time to think over their actions. After that they will become more relaxed.. and they will think about what they can do which is best for the country and themselves.''

"Detention has a negative meaning, I don't deny that, but we are looking after them very well, providing them with good facilities'' he maintained.

But he said those detained including Ms Yingluck were being held incommunicado with their mobile phones taken away.

"We want to seek a common understanding'' he said. "We want to change their perceptions, to not be self centred and see or hear only what they want. They have to listen to other people, to think about the country as a whole.''

A local non-government organisation on Saturday contacted The Straits Times, saying many people on the army's list were worried and did not know whether to report or ''run away'' and go underground.

Colonel Werachon also told reporters that alleged militant "red shirts'' against the coup d'etat that ousted the previous caretaker government are being raided and arrested. A ''signifcant amount of weapons'' had been recovered, he said.

On Friday, some 200 troops reportedly raided a rented apartment building in Khon Kaen and arrested 21 alleged militant red shirts.

Meanwhile resistance to the coup has emerged from small groups in Bangkok. ON SATURDAY

Resistance to the coup d'etat from small groups in Bangkok, meanwhile, is gathering pace. On Saturday morning, some 200 people staged a noisy protest shouting slogans against the army, and faced off with soldiers. Another similar protest is scheduled later in the day.

After the coup was declared on Thursday, the military banned gatherings of more than five people.

A protest on Friday evening ended with scuffles and five people were detained but later released.

The military regime has said it will allow most TV networks to resume regular programming on Saturday after two days of suspension - but under the army's supervision.

Separately, Mr Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra - Ms Yingluck's billionaire brother - has been quoted in reports saying that Thaksin was considering setting up a government in exile, and was looking for a friendly country to host it.

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