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Thailand: Strong Arming Neighbor Nations; Eroding Freedom of the Press

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Thailand summoned Singapore's ambassador Tuesday for a scolding of sorts, according to the Thailand's military-installed prime minister.

The meeting between Singapore's Ambassador to Thailand and officials from Thailan's Foreign Ministry was "to express concern about former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's recent meeting with a top official and to urge caution in the future."

"We informed the Singaporean (ambassador) that we are concerned by the political movements made by Thaksin," Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told reporters after a briefing from Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram.

"Singapore should be more cautious about allowing such movements since we have already revoked Thaksin's diplomatic passport," he added.

Thaksin met recently with Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar.

"[Singapore's Ambassador to Thgailand] Mr. Chan explained that the Singapore government regarded this as a private visit," the Singaporean Foreign Ministry said in a statement. A statement issued Sunday described Jayakumar as an "old friend" of Thaksin's and said their meeting was "purely social and private."

The military council that removed Thaksin has renewed attempts to muzzle the media and its coverage of him. The generals asked broadcasters last week to limit coverage of comments by Thaksin and his representatives in the name of national unity, prompting a media outcry but succeeding in blocking certain broadcasts.

A CNN interview with Thaksin broadcast elsewhere Monday evening was not shown in Thailand.

Cable TV provider UBC decided "not to broadcast the interview" and instead repeated an earlier program, said a UBC official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

CNN spokeswoman Evonne Inn said the Thaksin interview was blocked by local affiliates in Thailand. "We are unable to comment on the action taken by affiliates," she said.

Since the coup, the military and the temporary government it installed have blamed Thaksin and his supporters for trying to cause unrest to destabilize the country. Thaksin has denied the allegations, for which no evidence has been produced.

In a separate interview in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Mr. Thaksin said he would not try to return to power and criticized the new government's economic policies. The stock market in Thailand has been down since the coup last September.

"I reassure them they shouldn't feel worried about me," Mr. Thaksin said, adding that he will not seek to regain his old job - but will remain a member of his political party. He also said Thailand must better prepare for economic competition.

The government installed in Thailand last September by a military coup that deposed Mr. Thaksin has been acting in an almost paranoid way toward Mr. Thaksin and his supporters.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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