| BANGKOK, July 4
BANGKOK, July 4 Thailand's military on Friday
compared its seizure of power in May to restore stability after
months of unrest to the brutal crackdown by Myanmar's former
junta in 1988 to snuff out a pro-democracy movement.
Thailand's military justified its intervention by the need
to restore stability after months of unrest and demonstrations
by pro and anti-government protesters.
Perhaps unwittingly, the deputy chief of the Thai junta
likened its seizure of power to one of the darkest chapters in
the rule of Myanmar's junta, its crushing of pro-democracy
protests in 1988 when at least 3,000 people were killed.
"Myanmar's government agrees with what Thailand is doing in
order to return stability to the nation. Myanmar had a similar
experience to us in 1988, so they understand," said Tanasak
Patimapragorn, supreme commander of Thailand's armed forces,
following a visit to Bangkok by Myanmar's army chief.
Myanmar's junta stepped aside in 2011 after nearly five
decades of repressive rule and a nominally civilian government
full of former military people has pushed through political
reforms, freeing hundreds of political prisoners and unmuzzling
In contrast, Thailand's army seized power after months of
street protests designed to oust elected Prime Minister Yingluck
It has effectively banned criticism by the media and
arrested pro-democracy protesters for such innocuous acts as
reading books in public that are critical of totalitarian
regimes, such as George Orwell's "1984".
Yingluck was found guilty of abuse of power and ordered to
step down by a court on May 7 in what her supporters say was a
move by the military-backed royalist establishment to eliminate
her family's political influence. The coup on May 22 cleared out
what was left of her government.
The visit by Myanmar's military commander, General Min Aung
Hlaing, marks the second by a foreign official since the coup,
after that of Malaysia's defence minister.
Thai officials have visited other Asian countries such as
China and Cambodia to seek support as a counterweight to the
condemnation of Western countries. The United States and
European Union have both downgraded diplomatic ties.
Thailand has been sharply divided since 2006 when Yingluck's
brother, then premier Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by the
army. Critics, mostly drawn from the Bangkok-based conservative
establishment, said he had abused power and harboured republican
aspirations, accusations he denied.
On Thursday the military said it had drafted an interim
constitution but gave no details on its content. Winthai
Suvaree, a spokesman for the ruling National Council for Peace
and Order, told reporters the charter would be submitted for
royal endorsement this month.
The junta has begun an overhaul of the electoral system and
leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said elections could take
place by late 2015.
The junta has all but silenced dissent by detaining hundreds
of activists, academics, journalists and politicians, many at
undisclosed locations, before releasing them on condition they
do not criticise the regime.
The small anti-coup protests seen immediately after the coup
have fizzled out in recent weeks.
A rally on Friday outside the U.S. embassy in Bangkok to
show support for Washington's decision to downgrade ties with
Thailand attracted a dozen people, a Reuters reporter said.
Some were taken to police stations for questioning while
others were simply asked by troops to produce identity papers.
Under martial law, public gatherings of more than five
people are banned.
In the first conviction related to anti-coup activity, a
Bangkok court sentenced a protester on Thursday to a one-month
suspended jail term and a $190 fine for violating the law.
($1 = 32.3600 Thai Baht)
(Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak and Athit
Perawongmetha; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jeremy Laurence)