BANGKOK (AFP) – A prominent leader of the opposition Red Shirt movement and a former minister Friday became the latest critics of Thailand’s junta forced to report to barracks for “attitude adjustment” as the military ramps up its campaign against dissent.
Nattawut Saikuar, secretary-general of the movement loyal to ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra, and Pichai Naripthaphan, a former energy minister in her government, were both ordered to appear before the military after publicly criticising the regime.
So-called “attitude adjustment” sessions are used by the military to haul in those deemed to be uncooperative with Thailand’s generals, who imposed martial law and took over in a coup last May.
At least five people – three former ministers, a Red Shirt leader and Yingluck’s lawyer – have now been ordered to report this week.
Thailand’s junta has moved swiftly to stamp out any renewed criticism of their rule following the retroactive impeachment of Yingluck last week and after a top US diplomat made critical comments on Monday that infuriated the generals.
The military insist the summons are simply invites — though in reality any refusal to cooperate would likely lead to significant censure.
“Please use the word invite,” General Udomdej Sritabutr, army chief and a key junta leader told reporters at Government House.
“We ask for their cooperation… and if they don’t understand we will invite them again,” he added.
Earlier this week junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha made it clear he would not tolerate those who spoke out against the regime, adding he would use punitive measures including banning critics from travelling abroad and having their assets investigated or seized.
During the same briefing Prayuth, who is also prime minister, joked that reporters who continued to ask questions that were not “constructive” might also be summoned.
In a post on his Facebook page Nattuwat said he had been released after talks with military officials who asked him to “stop making political statements”.
He added the talks involved “no intimidation or coercion”.
The increase in “attitude adjustment” sessions comes amid a rocky patch for Thai-US relations following a recent visit by Daniel Russel, the most senior US official to travel to the kingdom since the coup.
Russel held meetings with junta officials and Yingluck – but not Prime Minister Prayuth – and delivered a speech warning that the military’s pursuit of Thailand’s first female premier risked being perceived as “politically driven”.
Washington’s top envoy in Bangkok pending the appointment of a new ambassador – Charge D’Affaires W Patrick Murphy – was promptly summoned to the foreign ministry to explain Russel’s comments.