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Opposition to Thailand coup simmers, ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra in "safe place"

May 25 2014, 21:08 IST
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SummaryFormer Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in a "safe place" on Saturday after being held by the army following a coup, an aide said, as opposition to the takeover grew among her supporters and pro-democracy activists.

most important institution.

An undercurrent of the crisis is anxiety over the issue of royal succession. The king, the world's longest-reigning monarch, is 86 and spent the years from 2009 to 2013 in hospital.

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn does not command the same devotion as his father, but some Thaksin supporters have recently been making a point of their loyalty to the prince.

"REFORMS BEFORE ELECTION"

Despite international calls for the restoration of democratic government, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has not promised a swift return to civilian rule, insisting there must be broad reforms and stability first.

"We must have economic, social and political reforms before elections," Prayuth told civil servants on Friday in his first comments on his plans since the coup. "If the situation is peaceful, we are ready to return power to the people."

But reforms could take many months and stability could be elusive.

Many countries have issued travel warnings for Thailand.

The United States swiftly condemned the coup and the State Department suspended about $3.5 million in military aid.

The Pentagon said on Saturday it was cancelling training and readiness exercises with Thailand, as well as a visit to Thailand by U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris, and one by a top Thai commander to the U.S. Pacific Command.

Human Rights Watch said rights in Thailand were in "free fall". But in what appeared to be a quick move to win over some of Thaksin's core supporters, Prayuth said on Friday paying farmers money owed under a failed subsidy scheme organised by Yingluck's government was a priority.

STIRRINGS OF OPPOSITION

The military has banned gatherings of more than five people, censored the media and imposed a 10 p.m to 5 a.m. curfew, but that has not stopped some from showing their disapproval.

About 200 people gathered outside a mall complex in north Bangkok early on Saturday, holding up handwritten slogans such as "Anti the Coup" and "Get out Dictators".

Police tried to move them on, a Reuters reporter said. The crowd then moved to the Victory Monument but police tried to block them. There was some pushing and plastic water bottles were thrown.

About 100 people gathered in a nearby shopping area before soldiers dispersed them, detaining several, a Reuters photographer said.

About 200 people gathered for a second day in Chiang Mai, Thaksin's hometown, and soldiers detained at least six people, a Reuters reporter said.

Such small protests appear spontaneous and leaderless but the real danger for the military would

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