03/09/2016, 12.19
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Bangkok: Military junta draws up black list of 6000 "influential people"

Senior officials and officers accused of corruption. Critics speak of an attempt to silence opponents. Thai Academic: "It is a sign of nervousness, the military sees enemies everywhere".

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - The military junta has compiled a list of 6 thousand names of "influential people", accused of corruption, collusion with the mafia and illegal activities. The list was drawn up by national intelligence, who have been working on an anti-corruption inquiry desired by the Prayut Chan o-cha government.

The move, however, has aroused the concerns among critics who believe it is yet another attempt to strengthen military power, ignoring the economic crisis and the drought that is affecting many areas of the country.

The "black list" containing names (as of yet unpublished) of senior government and security officials. General Prawit Wongsuwon, told the local press that each of them is suspected of having connections with criminal associations, although he did not specify what the crime is. The crackdown against these people, he added, will take place in the next two months.

The military junta has been in control of Thailand since May 2014, when it took power in a "white coup", which interrupted years of clashes between the "red shirts" - who support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, popular in the countryside and among the poorer margins of society - and the "yellow shirts", representatives of the urban class and the establishment. One of the first acts of the military junta was the presentation of a new Constitution, aiming to take power away from the parties. The first draft was rejected in September 2015 and postponed until after new democratic elections, now scheduled for 2017.

Although the junta led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan o-cha stated that the fight against corruption is its main focus, it has been repeatedly accused of conniving with the criminals. For this reason, critics of the government fear that 6 thousand names are really just political opponents. General Prawit responded assuring that "the crackdown is not focused on a particular political group".

In two years of military government, there has been a dramatic clampdown on freedom of expression, with the imprisoning dozens of political dissidents under one of the most restrictive lese majesty laws in the world.

Thai academic and political scientist, Paul Chambers, believes that the latest purge decided by the Government reveals a "siege mentality." "The economy is collapsing - he explained - and drought is affecting the north-east; there are so many difficulties that they [the military] feel attacked from all sides".

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