About 15 Thai political leaders allied to the ousted government plan to establish a movement outside Thailand to lead a campaign of civil disobedience to military rule, two members of the group said yesterday.
This comes as the ruling military junta started a systematic reshuffle to blunt the power of officials seen as loyal to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the anti-corruption agency announced a new investigation into the assets of his sister and ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and four members of her cabinet involved in a controversial rice subsidy programme.
If the plan to set up an ousted government proceeds, the group would represent the first attempt to mount organised opposition to military rule. The two activists said they had yet to formulate exactly what measures the group would use, but said they would be peaceful and would aim to fill the leadership vacuum among anti-coup elements.
"We believe democracy in Thailand has been systematically destroyed," said former government minister and "red shirt" founding member Jakrapob Penkair from Phnom Penh, the capital of neighbouring Cambodia.
Thaksin, who lives in exile, was not involved in the movement, said both Jakrapob and a second member of the group, fugitive former member of parliament Sunai Julapongsathorn.
Jakrapob was forced to resign as a minister in May 2008 after being accused of violating Thailand's strict lèse-majesté laws and has lived in Cambodia for some time.
Asked if the military had heard of plans to set up a movement overseas, Winthai Suvaree, deputy spokesman for the military's National Council for Peace and Order, said: "Thai law can't touch those who flee abroad but if we know where they are we will ask for international cooperation to bring them back to Thailand."
Kuy Kuong, a spokesman at Cambodia's foreign ministry, said no request for such cooperation had yet been received from Thailand.
Meanwhile, the military junta has transferred governors in 13 provinces, mostly from the country's pro-Thaksin north and northeast, as they moved to blunt the power of officials seen as loyal to the former premier.
The junta is also restructuring the police, long seen as a bastion of support for Thaksin, who was a police officer for 13 years before resigning to start his telecom business.
At least 17 top police have been transferred over the past week.
"They will finish what they started in 2006. They will make it difficult for Thaksin loyalists to make a comeback," said Kan Yuenyong, a political analyst at Siam Intelligence Unit.
Analysts say a reshuffle of top officials is a prelude to broader changes aimed at expelling Thaksin from political life - long a desired goal of Thailand's royalist establishment.
"The elite have designs to limit Thaksin's influence, for example, by adding clauses in a new constitution to limit the number of elected senators, most of whom are Thaksin allies," said Yuenyong.
Just how long the military council can keep Thaksin loyalists out remains to be seen. Senior police officials say the military's reshuffle can always be reversed.
"If a Thaksin party wins the next election again then his guys will be waiting to take up key positions again," said the senior Bangkok police official.
"In Thailand gratitude lasts a lifetime," another police official said. "He is an older brother in the police force and always will be."
Additional reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Presse