Interim civilian group planned for next week

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A woman activist shouts slogans as they burn a double-faced poster of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos during a rally to mark the 34th anniversary of martial law declared by Marcos in suburban Manila Thur AP Photo/Aaron Favila

By ME Online

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s new military rulers banned all political gatherings and activities at the local level Sunday, further cementing their powers and pre-empting any opposition following last week’s bloodless coup.

The ruling military council, under pressure from critics at home and abroad, also said an interim civilian government may be announced in the next week.

The military had said it would hand over power to civilians within two weeks of Tuesday’s coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and that a new election would be held by October of next year.

It has also called on the media to exercise self-censorship.

The latest order – announced on local television stations Sunday night – calls for all organizations at the district and provincial levels “to stop their activities and political gathering until the situation returns to normal.”

Maj. Gen. Tanongsak Apirakyothin, the deputy army chief for Thailand’s northern provinces, told The Associated Press there had been some meetings of local politicians in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Thaksin’s hometown and stronghold, and they “criticized the coup as wrong.”

Military officials approached them and asked them to stop their activities, he said.

Despite the ban, students from Bangkok’s Thammasat University announced they would hold a public seminar Monday to discuss the coup.

They described the meeting as an act of civil disobedience because it breeches the rule on gatherings.

The military hopes to justify its takeover by exposing corruption – widely believed to be massive – under Thaksin.

Speculation has been rife in Thailand that the democratically elected Thaksin may have sneaked some of his wealth out of the country just before the coup, but there has been no confirmation of this from the military council.

Airline officials said Sunday that two planes chartered by Thaksin days before the takeover were carrying an unusually large amount of luggage – more than 100 cases and trunks. Thaksin was in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly when the coup occurred and is now in London.