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Thai Coup Leaders Tighten Control Over Media Outlets


Thai military leaders who ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra two days ago in a bloodless coup are tightening their control over the country, by banning political party meetings, barring the creation of new parties, and placing restrictions on the media.

The military announced the ban on political party meetings over Thai television on Thursday, saying the action was taken to maintain stability.

They also banned the creation of new political parties.

Following Tuesday's coup, the military leaders, led by army commander General Sondhi Boonyaratglin, revoked the constitution, declared martial law, and banned public gatherings. Sondhi says he will serve as prime minister for two weeks and then the military junta, or the Council of Administrative Reform, will choose a civilian to replace him in an interim government.

The military leaders also promised to hold new elections in a year.

Coup leaders on Thursday also said they will impose new restrictions on the media, including a ban on publishing public opinions.

Supinya Klangnarong, from the Campaign for Media Reform, an independent Thai organization, says the military should respect media freedom.

"We would like to make a call to the military coup [leaders] that they should respect the principle of freedom of the press and freedom of expression and try not to control the free flow of information," said Supinya.

It is not clear what the media restrictions will be, and if they will be applied to all media outlets, including the Internet.

Supinya says any restrictions against media outlets will not be good for the country. "That would bring Thailand to move backward … that is very bad for Thai people and that will not bring us to the political reform and democracy at all," said Supinya.

Coup leaders accused Thaksin's government of corruption and say it was necessary to oust him to restore order. Mr. Thaksin is very popular among Thailand's poor and in rural communities. However, many in the urban middle class considered him a corrupt authoritarian who was seizing too much power.

The country's government has been paralyzed for months, after massive anti-Thaksin demonstrations led him to call snap elections in April. The elections eventually were nullified by the courts.

Before the coup, concerns were growing that there could be violent clashes between Mr. Thaksin's supporters and his opponents.

Mr. Thaksin, who was in New York when the coup took place, is now in London. He said Thursday he will be taking a "deserved rest" from politics. He also said the military should hold elections as soon as possible.

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