Police officers stand guard at a shopping mall in Bangkok.
Thailand's junta kept many of the thousands of troops and
police it readied to deal with protests in Bangkok on Sunday
off the streets as the number of people making a public show of
dissent to the May 22 coup dwindled.
The military has cracked down hard on pro-democracy
dissidents and supporters since it ousted Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra last month, seeking to mute criticism and
nip protests in the bud.
A heavy security force presence at potential flashpoints in
Thailand's largest cities has limited protesters to small
gatherings, which are often coordinated through social media
and mostly located around shopping malls.
On Sunday, few protests took place and the security presence
was lighter. Half a dozen women outside a mall gave the
three-fingered salute that has become a symbol of defiance to
Protesters posted photographs on social media of small groups
at Bangkok's main international airport making the same
salute, which was inspired by the film "The Hunger Games."
Police detained four protesters, deputy national police chief
Somyot Poompanmoung said. Since the coup, authorities have
forced detainees to sign statements declaring they will
desist from political activity as a condition of release.
"Those four people will be brought to the army camp to tune
their political attitude later," Somyot told Reuters. "We did
not use the full capacity of the forces. The protest was
peaceful and it has ended now."
The force on Sunday ready for deployment numbered more than
6,000, Somyot said. Army chief and coup leader General
Prayuth Chan-ocha had instructed security forces to avoid
confrontation, he said. Police would photograph protesters,
identify them and issue arrest warrants later.
The military coup in May was the latest convulsion in a
decade-long conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist
establishment and the rural-based supporters of Yingluck and
her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and has lived in
self-exile since a 2008 corruption conviction, won the
loyalty of the rural poor with populist policies and was the
real power behind the deposed government of his sister.
Yingluck was prime minister until May 7, when a court found
her guilty of abuse of power and she stepped down.
The army toppled the remnants of her government on May 22,
saying it needed to restore order after six months of
sometimes violent anti-government protests that had brought
the economy to the brink of recession.
Thailand has been without a properly functioning government
since December, when Yingluck dissolved parliament and called
a February election in a bid to end anti-government protests.
But protesters disrupted the vote, the election was annulled,
and her caretaker government limped on until Prayuth seized
COUP LEADER HEADS INVESTMENT BOARD
The military has moved swiftly to revive the economy, and has
given itself two months to clear a backlog of applications
from local and foreign investors to spend more than $21
billion on projects in Thailand.
The backlog arose because Yingluck's caretaker government
lacked the power to appoint a new team to run the Board of
Investment to replace executives whose term ended in October.
Prayuth on Saturday declared himself the head of the body
considering the investment applications, a position typically
held by the prime minister.
Quick approval would bring longer-term stimulus to the
economy and follow the payment of billions of dollars in
subsidy arrears to rice farmers that has already lifted
The military's move to pay debts to farmers quickly after
seizing power contributed to the first rise in consumer
sentiment in 14 months in May. Political turmoil had sunk
consumers confidence to a 12-month low in April.
The junta is reviewing infrastructure projects planned by the
previous government but delayed during the protests and will
press ahead with some. Among those under review are several
In the face of international condemnation of the coup,
Prayuth has asked for patience for at least a year while the
military engineers reforms that he says the country needs
before democracy can be reinstated.