Bangkok: Thailand`s military said on Friday it will set up "reconciliation centres" across the country aimed at healing a decade of political division that has often spilled into violence.
Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha took power in a coup on May 22 saying he had to end the latest violent spasm of a struggle between the royalist establishment and an upstart power network headed by billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Some loyalists of the self-exiled Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, expect the army to bring in electoral and other reforms over coming months aimed at ending Thaksin`s political influence once and for all.
But the army says it is being even-handed and politicians and activists from both sides have been among the more than 250 people detained since the coup, though more seem to have been allied to the ousted government of Thaksin`s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
The dispute between the Bangkok-based establishment, of which the military is a part, and Thaksin`s political machine, which includes provincial power-brokers and is supported by the rural poor, has polarised the country and divided families.
The junta has said it wants national cohesion and to "lead Thailand back on the path of democracy", and says its reconciliation centres will be a part of that effort.
"The model is Prayuth`s and it is intended to build peace because even within the same family politics can`t be discussed," said Colonel Banpot Poonpien, a spokesman for the military`s Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC).
"We must work on how to teach people to live together harmoniously," Banpot told reporters.
The ISOC is a military national security agency that took on leftists in the 1970s and now has sweeping powers and broad security responsibilities.
Banpot said Prayuth had given the ISOC the responsibility of setting up reconciliation centres in all of Thailand`s regions.
While details of where and how they would operate had yet to be finalised, Banpot said the objective was to "bring people with differing views" together and that political activists would be asked to attend.
"There will be no quota according to political affiliation for those invited to attend," he said.