Army rolls out reconciliation centers; confirms Yingluck free


– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Army aims to heal rift
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: To patch up the rifts in society, coup leader Maj Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday ordered the four Army areas to set up reconciliation centres throughout the country.

The centres would be forums for people to exchange views and receive information on the junta. This would help avoid misunderstandings and false information spreading among the people that were stirring up more conflict, said Winthai Suvari, spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Participation in the centre’s activities would be voluntary but groups of people might need someone to lead the political dialogue, he said.

Gen Prayuth staged a coup last week after negotiations among warring factions failed to produce any agreement to defuse the political crisis.

Ousted education minister Chaturon Chaisang was yesterday seized by soldiers in front of a crowd of foreign journalists after giving a snap press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT).

Chaturon, who did not report to the NCPO when summoned last Thursday, came out of hiding to appear before the international community at 2pm, reading a statement saying he was innocent of all charges. Half an hour earlier, he defiantly said he was “ready to be arrested”.

Thailand needs to return to democracy as soon as possible and all sides must avoid violence and suppression of viewpoints, he said. He also called for the Army to release all detainees. Winthai said Chaturon was taken away as he had failed to comply with the NCPO summons.

“Holding a press conference for the foreign media is deemed improper and against NCPO policy,” he said.

In the morning, the foreign press was informed that an unidentified politician would give a speech at the FCCT. Chaturon’s name was ann-ounced just 15 minutes before his arrival.

Yingluck Shinawatra’s release was confirmed by Winthai.

The junta has invited hundreds of people for questioning, but some have still failed to appear, including Petchawat Wattanapongsirikul, chairman of the Rak Chiang Mai 51 Group. Soldiers searched his Varorot Grand Palace Hotel in Chiang Mai for the third time since the coup. “The hotel has been practically closed for two years,” a cleaner said. “It has served more like a charity centre and a community radio station.”

The prominent red shirt was nowhere to be seen, but several rounds of ammunition and firecrackers were found.

In Lamphun, troops and police stormed a longan orchard in response to tips that claimed red-shirt guards had been undergoing weapons training there. Surprised by the raid, five people tried to run away, but two were caught. Explorations of the area uncovered several guns and signs of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.

In Udon Thani, members of the anti-coup Udon Peace group reported to the province’s internal security operations centre. They were warned not to rally and allowed to leave.

In Tak, the mansion of an adopted son of former interior minister Charupong Ruangsuwan was searched. Charupong has defied his summons. His adopted son, Danupon Thanapipatchai, was away and no suspicious items were found.

In Trat, police continued hunting for Narong Krachangklang, who was accused of fatally shooting a ranger on duty during a search at Narong’s house on Monday. Police rejected rumours that Narong who was not home at the time had already been gunned down.

The National Council for Peace and Order has appointed six advisors on five issues, with former defence minister general Prawit Wongsuwan leading the team.

Retired General Anupong Paochinda will oversee security measures, former finance minister Somkid Jatusripitak foreign affairs, ex-Bank of Thailand governor Pridiyathorn Devakula and ex-commerce minister Narongchai Akrasanee will focus on economy, while ex-secretary-general to the Cabinet Wissanu Krea-ngam will oversee legal affairs.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News
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