Bangkok (AsiaNews) - A senior Thai general has told the BBC that last month's military coup had not been planned in advance. It comes after an opposition leader claimed the army had been discussing overthrowing the government for years. Lt Gen Chatchalerm Chalermsukh also said those detained by the military since the coup were being treated well. And he said controversial former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his family could still return to Thai politics.
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. Coup leaders, led by army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, said they intervened at the last minute to stop the country sliding into a more dangerous and violent political conflict.
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 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.
However in a recent interview one of the main supporters of the coup, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, said he had discussed overthrowing the government with Gen Prayuth many times in recent years. But Lt Gen Chatchalerm denied an early planning of the operation. "So far as I know there was no advanced planning," Gen Chatchalerm told. At the same time he denies the option of a manhunt against Thaksin, till in exile, adding that it is still possible that Mr Thaksin could return to politics after reforms are complete. "we are not hunting Thaksin, as we did before. He is free to do anything. We would like to see him come back and fight the legal charges against him. If he is confident he can win, then he will be able to return to politics" he said.
Meanwhile the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has set up five panels to monitor content in all branches of the media. It says the panels will help prevent the media from becoming tools to distribute false information stirring up violence and provoking public hatred against the monarchy. Anyway, the Thai Journalists Association says the NCPO's guidelines are too broad and could result in the rights of the media being trampled on.