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15 Arrested in First Protest Against Coup in Thailand

From Times Wire Services

Fifteen students were arrested as a crowd of 1,000 people defied martial law Monday to take part in the first major protest against the coup that toppled Thailand’s elected government.

Meanwhile, the deputy leader of the military junta that ousted Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan on Saturday said an interim government would be formed “not later than next week” and would exclude the military and politicians.

Coup leaders also ordered the assests of ousted political leaders frozen while the leaders are investigated for possible corruption, and the military has set up a committee to investigate political leaders from the ousted government to determine whether any of them had become “suddenly and unusually wealthy.”

At the rally at Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng University, the protesters distributed leaflets demanding an end to martial law, a new constitution and national elections in three months.

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The leaflets said that, although the Chatichai government was corrupt, a coup was not the proper way to change things.

Police claimed that those arrested were the rally’s leaders and said they faced up to six months in jail for violating martial law. Later, about 200 policemen dispersed the rest of the crowd.

The five-man junta that carried out the coup has dissolved Parliament and the constitution and imposed martial law, forbidding political activity and gatherings of more than five people.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Gen. Suchinda Krapayoon, deputy leader of the junta, said that those who joined the new government would not be allowed to take part in promised elections, “as we would like this new election to be fair.” He did not say who would participate in the provisional government.

Coup leader Gen. Sunthorn Kongsompong said Monday that the junta would remain as an advisory body to the provisional government but would dissolve itself after the election.


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