NAN – The Thai Army have confiscated nearly 9,000 red bowls bearing a message from the house of a former Pheu Thai MP in Nan province, in the junta’s latest attempt to block the resurgence of the political party it toppled.
Maj Gen Chainarong Klaewkla, commander of the Peace and Order Maintenance Force of the 38th Military Circle, together with Pol Maj Gen Padon Prapanon, commander of the Nan provincial police, led a joint task force to raid the house of Sirintorn Ramasut, a former Pheu Thai MP for the northern province the Bangkok Post reports.
The seizure followed the arrest last week of a woman seen posing with one of the bowls in photos on social media. She has been charged with sedition, a move described by a rights group as absurd.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha explained on the same day that the woman was arrested because she had shown support for Thaksin, a fugitive who broke the law, and such an act compromised internal security.
The woman could be jailed for up to seven years if convicted.
“The Thai junta’s fears of a red plastic bowl show its intolerance of dissent has reached the point of absolute absurdity,” said Mr Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director.
The plastic scoops, used for pouring water in Buddhist ceremonies during Thailand’s upcoming new year, bear a note signed by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose political bloc has spent the past decade vying for power with a military-backed elite.
The bowls – in the Shinawatras’ signature red colour – were first distributed at a temple fair last week in the northern province of Chiang Mai.
The message printed on the side reads: “The situation may be hot, but brothers and sisters may gain coolness from the water inside this bucket.”
The junta has outlawed all political activities, pledging to heal the kingdom’s bitter divides.
But critics say the generals are chiefly bent on crippling the Shinawatra clan, who are wildly popular with their rural supporters in the north and east but hated by the Bangkok-centric military and royalist elite.
A similar attempt to quash the siblings’ enduring popularity was made earlier this year when the authorities banned a calendar featuring the pair in an embrace.
After keeping quiet for much of the past two years, the family’s powerful political machine has recently become more vocal as the country gears up for the junta’s promised elections in 2017.
But public criticism of the regime has landed many Shinawatra allies in brief spells of military detention, which the army refers to as “attitude adjustment” sessions.