Bangkok: The top general in Thailand`s ruling junta warned people today not to join anti-coup street protests, saying normal democratic principles cannot be applied at the time, as troops fanned out in central Bangkok to prevent rallies.
Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha also defended the detentions of dozens of politicians and activists, most of them associated with the ousted government, with a spokesman quoting him as saying that the measure would not last more than a week and was allowed by law.
In a chilling move apparently aimed at neutralising critics and potential opposition, the junta has also ordered dozens of outspoken activists, academics and journalists to surrender themselves to military authorities, including a prominent Thai reporter.
Pravit Rojanaphruk, an outspoken columnist for the English-language daily The Nation, tweeted that he was reporting to the junta: "On my way to see the new dictator of Thailand. Hopefully the last," he wrote.
The military, which is already holding most of the Cabinet ousted in a coup Thursday in secret locations, said it would keep former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and others in custody for up to a week to give them "time to think" and keep the country calm.
Starting tomorrow, those in detention who have arrest warrants or face criminal charges will be handed over for prosecution, said deputy military spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree.
He also said that the general "urged every group of citizens to avoid joining the anti-coup protests because at the moment, the democratic principles cannot be executed normally."
In the three days since Thailand`s first coup in eight years, the junta has faced scattered protests that came amid growing concern over its intentions. Troops were deployed in central Bangkok`s central shopping district today in a bid to stop any gatherings.
Yesterday, around 1,000 anti-coup protesters defied an army-imposed edict banning groups larger than five from gathering for political purposes. They were met by hundreds of soldiers, and the groups eventually dispersed.
Several demonstrators have been detained, and rights groups have expressed concern over the growing repression.
The military yesterday dissolved the Senate - the last functioning democratic institution left, and absorbed its legislative powers.