Thailand’s military government targets opposition for criticising election delays

Police say members of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Puea Thai party violated a ban on political activity and broke a computer crimes act by publicising their event online

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2018, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2018, 10:25pm

Thailand’s military government has accused opposition members of flouting a ban on political activity, among other charges, after they criticised it for reneging on promises to restore democracy and protect basic rights, police said on Friday.

The military, which has ruled since a 2014 coup it said was needed to restore order after months of protests, promised a return to democratic rule within two years, but has repeatedly delayed general elections, most recently set for February 2019.

Police said the government, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), filed the charges late on Thursday after a news conference by the Puea Thai party, which was founded by ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“Yesterday the NCPO came to file charges against the Puea Thai party,” said Maitri Chimcherd, commander of the Crime Suppression Division. “We just finished interrogating this morning at 5am. Police must first gather evidence and see if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.”

The party was charged with violating a ban on political activity, sedition and breaking Thailand’s computer crimes act by publicising the event online, said Burin Thongpraphai, chief of the junta’s legal team.

Since the coup, the government has banned gatherings of more than five people on grounds of maintaining national security.

The charges were unfair, said Chaturon Chaisang, a senior member of the Puea Thai party.

“The charges are not proportionate to what happened,” he said. “They want to bully the Puea Thai party.”

Thailand is divided broadly between those backing Thaksin and his sister Yingluck, whose government was removed in the coup, and the elite in the capital, Bangkok.

The delay in holding elections, which some analysts have said could be pushed back again, have spurred small protests in Bangkok in recent weeks seeking a quick return to democracy.