Thai military junta says it will not `cling to power`

Thailand`s new ruling military junta on Thursday said it will not "cling to power" and hold fresh elections under "right conditions", as tensions mounted in the troubled nation a week after the army seized power in a coup.

PTI| Last Updated: May 29, 2014, 18:23 PM IST

Bangkok: Thailand`s new ruling military junta on Thursday said it will not "cling to power" and hold fresh elections under "right conditions", as tensions mounted in the troubled nation a week after the army seized power in a coup.

Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha had deposed the elected government on May 22 in a bloodless coup after nearly seven months of anti-government protests, often violent, left the country deeply paralysed.

"We neither have any ambition nor desire to cling to power," Lt Gen Chatchalerm Chalermsukh, the army`s deputy chief of staff, said while addressing a press conference the army has called for foreign media in an apparent effort to respond to international criticism against the coup.

"We will definitely have an election," he said. But he added, "this will take some time. If you ask me how long it will take, that`s difficult to answer."
"It is the council`s intention to create the right conditions...To put Thailand on the path to free and fair elections," Chatchalerm said referring to the junta.

Since the coup, tensions have mounted on the streets of Bangkok with almost daily protests in defiance of the military`s ban on political gatherings.

Hundreds of troops and police today sealed off one of Bangkok`s busiest intersections to block a planned protest.

The heavy deployment came a day after scores of protesters clashed with soldiers at the capital`s Victory Monument. Protesters hurled water bottles and other objects at soldiers, and an army vehicle was vandalised with large white letters reading, "NO COUP. GET OUT."

The army has firmed up control since staging the coup - the 12th since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932 - and summoned over 250 people, including members of the ousted government and other leading political figures, journalists, scholars and activists, considered critical of the regime.

It has said it will crackdown on online speech it considers inflammatory while foreign broadcasters like CNN and BBC have been blocked, and several Thai news outlets have been shut down or are practicing self-censorship.

However, the military denied responsibility for a brief and partial shutdown of Facebook in Thailand on Wednesday.

Thailand`s armed forces acted after months of political violence claimed 28 lives and left hundreds wounded.

Thailand has been marred by bouts of political violence for more than seven years.

The latest unrest began in November last year, when anti-government protesters launched a campaign to oust the government led by premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

They accuse Yingluck, who was sacked earlier this month for nepotism by the Constitutional Court, of acting as a proxy for her fugitive brother, former premier Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Thaksin lives in Dubai on a self-exile to avoid jail for a corruption conviction that he claims was politically motivated.