Junta leader threatens media, vows to step up anti-coup purge

The junta leader threatened to step up the use of martial law, warning that people who still engage in anti-junta activities, especially the media and the anti-establishment red shirts, will be detained and barred from making financial transactions.

Moreover, the junta Premier revealed that another ex-Pheu Thai politician has been summoned for taking an anti-junta stance.

Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the head of the Thai junta and Prime Minister, told the media on Thursday that the junta will summon Pichai Naripthaphan, the Energy Minister in the former elected government, after he criticised the junta’s energy policies. Moreover, he stressed that anti-coup elements, especially the red shirts and members of the media who express “inappropriate” opinions, will be sent to so-called ‘attitude adjustment’ camps or detained by the military.

“If those who are still engaged in the [anti-junta] movement still continue, they will be prohibited from leaving the country. Their financial records will be investigated and [they will be] barred from making any transaction. In the past, the implementation of martial law has always been relaxed. From now on, it will be stepped up in accordance with the political situation,” said Prayut.

Pichai is the fourth anti-coup Pheu Thai politician to be summoned by the junta after they criticised the regime.  Three others were summoned because they made comments on the impeachment of elected Pheu Thai former Prime Minister by the junta-appointed parliament over controversial corruption allegations related to rice pledging scheme.

The three other Pheu Thai politicians summoned by the junta earlier were Surapong Tovichakchaikul, former Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister under Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration, Chaturon Chaisang, a well known former Education Minister, and Nattawut Saikua, former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives.  

The junta leader also threatened the media on Thursday. “Next time, you all will meet the same fate if you ask too many uncreative questions. I want to ask what do you get out of speaking against the [junta’s] power? Even though we have full control now, do you still challenge it?”

When asked what he thought of the campaign appearing on Facebook to encourage people to wear red shirts on Sunday as a way to oppose the coup, he said the campaign is useless and made ambiguous statements but he knew what the campaign was implying.

The campaign to wear red shirts on Sunday was allegedly initiated by Sombat Boonngam-anong (aka Nuling), the embattled red-shirt leader of the now-defunct Red Sunday group, who is accused of defying the junta’s orders and instigating rebellion against the coup-makers in June 2014. He was detained in June 2014, but was released on bail. His case is before the military court.

Sombat, however, told Prachatai that he did not start this year’s campaign.

“I simply posted on my Facebook page ‘If you wear a red shirt on Sunday, you are my friend’ and someone made a graphic out of my post and it eventually became some sort of campaign. I just simply wanted to comfort the red-shirt people, that’s all, and I have been wearing a red shirt every Sunday for the last four years, which is not illegal,” said Sombat.