06/06/2014, 00.00
THAILAND
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Bangkok: Military junta aims to revive economy and purge politics of Shinawatraas

The military, who seized power in a coup, seek support among Asia-Pacific nations. Vietnam and China lend support, Myanmar recognizes the new government. Curfew lifted in tourist areas. AsiaNews sources: Western "democratic model" has failed, people are demanding a "strong government”. Attempts to form a dissident group abroad.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - The need to gain support among neighboring nations in the Asia-Pacific region and to slowly but systematically purge the political system of members close to the Thaksin clan", who have dominated Thai society for over a decade. This is one of the priorities that the Military Junta has set itself since taking power in a coup May last, that  led to the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Another is the revival of the national economy scuppered by months of political deadlock and the flight of foreign investors following the military takeover.  This is also why the upper echelons of the military have decided to lift the curfew in the major tourist areas, in an attempt to restore a semblance of normality.

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. The anti-government protests have resulted in the deaths of nearly 30 people and hundreds injured; However, the military's decision to carry out a the coup has drawn criticism from the international community led by the United States and the UN. However, the position of neighbouring governments is very different.  China and Vietnam  support the new government in Bangkok and Myanmar - also governed by a military junta for decades - has given its official recognition.

Thai army chiefs are pushing ahead in their purge of former officials and officers loyal to the Shinawatra family. Among these, the governors of the 13 provinces, particularly in the north and north-east of the country, along with police chiefs, bastions of Thaksin power. Thai policy experts point out that the army wants to complete the work it had begun in 2006, uprooting "the Shinawatra influence". In response a group of 15 former government loyalists who fled abroad, want to form a (former) civil disobedience movement against the military. Jakrapob Penkair, a former minister and one of the founders of the "Red Shirts", complains of a "systematic destruction" of democracy in the country.

A diplomatic source for AsiaNews in Bangkok, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that "the general situation is calm," the major players in the game "know they have to stay calm" because "the army controls every aspect" of public life. The presence of the military "is minimal," he adds, but "the message is clear: we are in command". The military is holding public meetings with citizens, with students in schools, they tell people "to obey and at the same time are trying to calm tempers ... they are trying to do their best to resolve the political and social problems" in Thailand.

The military's main concern, the source said, is the need to "improve the economy" and so they have removed the curfew in vacation destinations, are attempting to "moderate prices and curb inflation", to resolve the problem of rice subsidies "selling it off at cut prices". The point is that people "no longer believe in the concept of democracy on the Western model" that " has failed here," but there is a prevailing desire for "a strong government to lead the people." In general, he concludes, most of the population, including the "red" pro-Thaksin group consent to the coup because "political leaders have defrauded the country and the interests of the people."

From 1932 to today, the Thai military has carried out at least 12 coups. The political and institutional crisis 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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