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Protesters defy Thai military rulers' warning

By The Citizen
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Protests mainly prompted by social media are occurring in Thailand's capital Bangkok despite warnings by the country's new military rulers.

The generals overthrew the government on Thursday after months of confrontation between the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the royalist establishment.

Al Jazeera's Robert Kennedy, reporting from Bangkok, said several hundred protesters gathered in front of a McDonald's fast-food restaurant in the city's central business district, where soldiers with riot shields met them.

Chants of 'Aok bai!' (Go away) rang out loudly through the cheering and jeering crowd, as soldiers sternly looked on.

Pushing and shoving broke out but there was no serious violence, Kennedy said.

'I think this coup is so bad,' said a woman who asked to be identified only as Urai to protect herself. 'The government was good and Red Shirts are good. These soldiers are bad.'

At the same time on Sunday, the military began meetings with the leaders of state and private commercial organisations, senior officials of the commerce, finance ministries and business leaders.

Officials from the Energy Ministry, oil trade and transport companies were due to meet military officers later in the day.

The army has also asked 18 newspaper bosses to a meeting on Sunday, presumably to receive directions on supportive coverage.

'From now on, the army will focus on solving the country's problems,' a senior military official said on Saturday.

'The army would like to be in power for the shortest period they can. They want to make sure the country is really getting back to normal without any resistance.'

Army's warning
Power now lies squarely in the hands of army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his military government known as the National Council for Peace and Order, and their priorities appeared to be stamping out dissent and tending to the economy.

'We would like to ask all people to avoid gathering to stage protests because it's not a usual situation for the democratic process,' Winthai Suvaree, the deputy army spokesman, said in a televised statement.

'For those who use social media to provoke, please stop because it's not good for anyone. For media, they should be careful about speaking, criticising or doing anything that causes damage to any party, especially civilian, police and military officials.'

Critics say the coup will not end the conflict between the rival power networks: the Bangkok-based elite dominated by the military, old money families and the bureaucracy, and an upstart clique led by Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother and former telecommunications tycoon. ALJAZEERA