‘The more they exercise their illegitimate power the more illegitimate they become’
In a chilling move, apparently aimed at neutralising critics and potential opposition, Thailand’s new army junta on Saturday ordered dozens of outspoken activists, academics and journalists to surrender themselves to military authorities.
The junta is already holding most of the government officials in secret locations against their will.
At least 100 people, mostly top politicians, have been detained incommunicado by the junta so far. Deputy army spokesman Col. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said they were all being well-treated and the military’s aim was to achieve a political compromise.
Col. Weerachon said all those held have had their cell phones confiscated because “we don’t want them communicating with other people. We want them to be themselves and think on their own.”
“This is because everybody involved in the conflict needs to calm down and have time to think,” Col. Weerachon said. “We don’t intend to limit their freedom, it’s to relieve the pressure.”
In a military order broadcast at the start of the day, the junta summoned 35 more people, including politicians, political activists and, for the first time, outspoken academics and some journalists.
Among those ordered to report to the military on Sunday was Pravit Rojanaphruk, an outspoken columnist for the English-language daily The Nation. In a tweet on Saturday night, Mr. Pravit was defiant, saying “the more they exercise their illegitimate power the more illegitimate they become.”
Another on the list, Kyoto University professor of Southeast Asian studies Pavin Chachavalpongpun, said by phone from Japan that he would not turn himself in. He said the summons meant the junta felt insecure. “The military claiming to be a mediator in the Thai conflict, that is all just nonsense,” he said.
“This is not about paving the way for reform and democratisation,” he said, adding “We are really going back to the crudest form of authoritarianism.”
Rights groups have expressed grave concern over the growing repression.
“This is a dangerous precedent. People simply expressing opinions must not be penalised,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.