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Monday, Jun 9, 2014

Asia

Thai junta to explain itself to international rights groups

Reuters | Monday, Jun 9, 2014

A Thai soldier holds hands with a member of the pro-government "red shirt" group at an encampment in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok May 22, 2014.

BANGKOK - Thailand's junta said on Monday it had ordered the Thai ambassadors to the United States and Britain to meet human rights groups in an effort to "create understanding" about its seizure of power.

Several Western governments have spoken out against the May 22 coup, calling for a speedy return to democracy. Rights groups have urged the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to curb its powers to detain and prosecute civilians. "The NCPO has ordered Thailand's ambassadors in New York and London to meet representatives from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to create understanding," Yongyuth Mayalarp, a spokesman for the NCPO, told reporters.

Representatives at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch confirmed they had been invited to meet the ambassadors. Rights activists have been called in by the military and warned against speaking to foreign media.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said he took power to restore order after nearly seven months of political turmoil in the polarised country. He has launched a reconciliation campaign aimed at healing divisions.

Gen Prayuth is due to meet foreign diplomats on Wednesday to brief them on the military administration's plans.

The NCPO ordered political parties on Monday to suspend activities. When the military scrapped the constitution after the coup it was unclear whether parties would continue to exist.

The coup was the latest chapter in a power struggle between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment and supporters of ousted former populist premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whose stronghold is in the rural north and northeast.

Thaksin's removal in a 2006 coup did nothing to heal the divide and the military now appears intent on finishing what it started then, shuffling senior civil servants and military personnel to blunt the power Thaksin loyalists.

The ousted government was headed by Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, until she was ordered to step down on May 7 after a court found her guilty of abuse of power.

The NCPO has moved swiftly to revive an economy battered by months of chaos.

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