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Yingluck supporters defy junta

- Ex-PM in a ‘safe place’ after being detained by army, Senate dissolved

Bangkok, May 24 (Reuters): Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in a “safe place” today, an aide said, after being held by the army following a coup, as opposition to the takeover grew among her supporters and pro-democracy activists.

The army moved on Thursday after failing to forge a compromise in a power struggle between Yingluck’s populist government and the royalist establishment, which brought months of sometimes violent unrest to Bangkok’s streets.

Consolidating its grip, the military dissolved the Senate today, the only legislative Assembly still functioning in Thailand. It also sacked three top security officials who were seen as close to the ousted government.

The military detained Yingluck yesterday when she and about 150 other people, most of them political associates, were summoned to an army facility in Bangkok. More people were summoned this weekend, including some outspoken academics.

A senior officer told Reuters Yingluck could be held for up to a week and media reported she had been taken to an army base in Saraburi province north of Bangkok, but an aide denied that.

“Now she's in a safe place ... She has not been detained in any military camp. That’s all I can say at this moment,” the aide said, declining to be identified.

A source from her Puea Thai Party said Yingluck was not absolutely free because soldiers were monitoring her, and several former ministers from her cabinet were being held in army facilities in Saraburi.

The military has banned gatherings of more than five people, censored the media and imposed a 10 p.m to 5 a.m. curfew, but that has not stopped some from showing their disapproval. About 200 people gathered outside a mall complex in north Bangkok early on Saturday, holding up handwritten slogans such as “Anti the Coup” and “Get out Dictators”.

Police tried to move them on, a Reuters reporter said. The crowd, with young men on motorcycles leading the way, then moved south to the Victory Monument but police lined up across the road to try to block them. There was some pushing and plastic water bottles were thrown.

About 100 people also gathered in a nearby shopping area and some on pedestrian overpasses. Soldiers dispersed the crowd, detaining several people, a Reuters photographer said. About 200 people gathered for a second day in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Thaksin's hometown, and there were some scuffles. Soldiers detained two people.

Such small protests appear spontaneous and leaderless but the real danger for the military would be a sustained mass campaign by Thaksin’s “red shirt” loyalists. Thaksin’s supporters in his northern and northeastern heartlands have repeatedly said they would act if another pro-Thaksin government was forced from power unconstitutionally. Thaksin has not commented publicly since the coup but a resolute, well-financed campaign by his red shirts would be a major test for the military.

 
 
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