05/23/2014, 00.00
THAILAND
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Bangkok, Army summons ex-premier: Travel bans and threats of arrest for politicians

Former Prime Minister Yingluck is summoned with 100 other prominent politicians before the military leaders. Schools and offices closed. The crisis in Thailand worries UN and Western governments, the U.S. threatens to cut off funds. Economy and tourism at risk. AsiaNews sources in Bangkok: " The harshest coup in recent years". Situation calmer in the north.

Bangkok ( AsiaNews) - Thailand's Armed Forces who led yesterday's coup have summoned former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra - along with 100 other prominent politicians, members of the government and the opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban - for urgent talks.

Along with the summons, the military has also issued travel bans against 155 people, including representatives of the main political parties, who cannot leave the country . Under the coup the army has suspended the constitution, assumed control of the nation, banned demonstrations and arrested activists and demagogues. 

The move follows months of political conflict between the pro- Thaksin (the Red Shirts) majority and democratic opposition (the yellow Shirts), who have occupied Bangkok's nerve centers for some time now. On May 20, the military declared martial law, imposed media censorship and after 48 hours, assumed control of the nation in a coup. This came after the latest round of talks between the various political factions ended in a stalemate once again.

Global leaders and Western governments have expressed concern for the deterioration of the situation in Thailand. The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon calls for a speedy return "to constitutional, civic and democratic principles". The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that "there is no justification" to explain the coup and threatens to suspend $ 10 million in aid to the country.

This would be a harsh blow to the national economy, already rocked by heavy losses on the stock market.  The tourism sector is particularly worrying with tourist flows down by 5% in the first months of 2014 compared to last year . The growth of gross domestic product (GDP) first projected at between 3 and 4% , has fallen to 1.5/2 , 5%.

However, the Armed Forces are pushing ahead and Gen. Prayuth Chan- Ocha has decalred himself Prime Minister. He stressed that his troops are taking control to "return the country to normality as soon as possible". In addition to the curfew and closure of schools and offices , the military is threatening to block internet and social media in case they are used to foment unrest and divisions. All forms of public protest or demonstration, which have long occupied some landmarks in the capital were cleared.

A diplomatic source for AsiaNews in Bangkok, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, reports that that "everything has been shut down and in the hands of the military, who have imposed martial law". The groups that inspired the protest, Yellow and Red , "have been forcibly removed, playtime is over". In all provinces, continues the source , governors and mayors were gathered and "have received instructions on how to behave" from the military commander of the area.

There are fears of possible clashes between soldiers and the most radical of the Red Shirts - close to former Prime Minister Shinawatra - "angered by for yet another overthrow of a government" elected through the ballot box and may include "new secessionist strikes in the north " .

All media is in the hands of the military, who in the first article of the provisional constitution have determined that the king or the royal family must not be mentioned as they are inviolable and untouchable elements of the political and institutional life in Thailand. "The military has also closed the borders - a diplomat, long operative in the Asian nation reports to AsiaNews - and it is clear that it is a more restrictive coup than the ones I've seen so far ." However, it " will not solve the crisis, it will only be a moment of stasis and may in fact exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, the political class and leadership has never made ​​the effort to educate the people to democracy, instead a logic submission and obedience has prevailed ".

The atmosphere is different in the north, where the situation currently seems more calm according Fr . Valerio Sala, PIME missionary (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions). The assistant pastor at Holy Spirit Catholic center of Mae Suaj, a village in the province of Chiang Rai reports that "you do not see many in the military on the streets. The schools are closed to avoid crowds, but we try to live quietly . Actually, people are more concerned about rebuilding after the earthquake in early May and trying to return to everyday life".

From 1932 to today , the Thai military has carried out at least 12 coups, the most recent of them yesterday to put an end to the political and institutional crisis that has hit the second most important Asian economy.

The political and institutional crisis in the second largest Asian economy worsened in December, when the Prime Minister Shinawatra dissolved parliament and called for early elections.  Detractors accused her of being a " puppet" in the hands of her brother Thaksin, a multibillionaire -in-exile to escape a two-year jail sentence for corruption.  In early May, a court ordered the removal of the Prime Minister and nine ministers for abuse of power; Shinawatra is also under investigation for her subsidy scheme for rice production which has caused a billion dollar hole in the state budget . Opponents want political reforms and new elections "to end the Thaksin regime".  However, since 2001, the Shinawatra family has consistently dominated polls drawing on broad popular support in the north and northeast.

 

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