Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thailand: Update--Military Junta Brings in Flag Officers Critical of Thaksin Shinawatra, Curfew Relaxed

According to Reuters, Thailand's military junta has appointed two retired generals with palace connections as advisers, putting powerful establishment figures hostile toward former ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, 64. 

Hoping to show things are getting back to normal, the military also relaxed a night-time 2200-0500 hours curfew brought in after it seized power in a May 22 coup.

Data on Wednesday (May 28) showed trade shrank in April and factory output fell for a 13th straight month, underscoring the damage political unrest has caused and the tough job the military government faces in reviving an economy on the brink of recession.

The junta's team of advisers includes a former defense minister, General Prawit Wongsuwan, and former army chief General Anupong Paochinda. 

COMMENT: A Reuters report in December 2013 revealed that Prawit and Anupong had secretly backed the anti-government protests that undermined the government of Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. 

Yingluck was removed by the Constitutional Court on May 7, for abuse of power and the coup ousted remaining ministers two weeks later.
It is not clear what powers the advisers will have, but their appointment would suggest little prospect of compromise with the Shinawatras.
Deputy army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said 200 people summoned after the coup had been detained, but 124 of them had since been released. Seventy-six were still being held, while another 53 people had not responded to a summons.

Later, the army released at least ten pro-Thaksin "red-shirt" activists including their leader, Jatuporn Prompan.

Yingluck and Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister in a rival government who led six months of protests against her, are among those who have been released.

A seven-hour curfew the army imposed after the coup has been shortened to four hours, from 0000 hours to 0500 hours.

The Commerce Ministry reported another slump in imports, down 14.5% in April from a year before as companies, unsure how the politics would develop, stopped importing machinery and consumers reined in spending.

The military has moved quickly to tackle economic problems, notably preparing payments for hundreds of thousands of rice farmers that the ousted Yingluck government was unable to fulfill. 

"We're going to have to continue to calibrate how we'll work with the government and military when they don't show any pathway back to civilian rule," a senior US official told Reuters in Washington. "We're very concerned and there will be an impact on our relationship."

As I have said previously, US Secretary of State John Kerry should move cautiously in not being too critical of the junta, as they could

Thaksin has not commented on the coup except to say he was saddened and hoped the military would treat everyone fairly.

Many Bangkok voters support the establishment and approve of the coup if it means ending Thaksin's influence. They say he is corrupt and disrespectful to the monarchy, an accusation he denies.