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Grotesque devil-mask Aussie arrest but Thai streets calm

May 29, 2014 Destination Thailand, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The streets of Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand were reported peaceful last night in the wake of the recent military coup, with curfew hours relaxed and tourists going about their usual business.

An exception was the widely reported arrest of one Mark Robert Coutelas, 53, an Australian said to be one of the first foreigners to be taken into custody under the new coup rules. Coutelas was arrested at an apartment on the resort island of Phuket, allegedly in possession of an automatic pistol, ammunition and a small quantity of the drug crystal methamphetamine, according to Phuketwan news website.

Coutelas in devil mask on holiday - Facebook

Coutelas in devil mask on holiday – Facebook

Photos of the bald-headed Australian were splashed liberally on Australian news websites. They showed him wearing a devil mask, thrusting his arm inside the mouth of an elephant, and with several young Thai women. They were carried by the Sydney Morning Herald website and elsewhere.

The Thai military now has the power to hold people without charge for up to seven days and charge alleged offenders in a military or civilian court.

The Thai curfew, initially from 10pm to 5m when imposed after the coup, was later relaxed by an hour in each direction and then, yesterday, was relaxed again. People are now banned from the streets only between midnight and 4am.

Thailand’s army yesterday said it had released 124 people, including politicians and activists, who had been taken into custody after the coup. Conditions for release appear to include agreeing to avoid political activity and informing the army of travel, a BBC correspondent said.

Coup leaders, who seized power last week, received royal endorsement on Monday and the military said yesterday that Thailand’s former prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, had been released, though her release was subject to some restrictions.

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Aussie suspect arrested – Photo Patong Police

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the main reason for acting had been to keep peace and order in the country.

At a televised press conference, Prayuth said elections would take place as soon as the political situation returned to normal. Some protests were reported on the streets of Bangkok, but the protests were small and the army avoided intervening.

The most significant arrest may have been that of veteran politician Chaturon Chaisang, education minister in the ousted government, who was marched out of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok by troops.

He was holding a press conference, publicised by Australia’s ABC and other media, in defiance of an order for him to report to the junta.

Observers on the spot, however, say that from a tourism standpoint, Bangkok is safer now than it has been for nearly a decade.

“While tourism gets back into gear, Thailand’s destinations remain a bargain,” TTR Weekly stated. “Hotels and travel companies are going out of their way to roll out the welcome mat with packages and incentives to bring business back quickly.”

Written by : Peter Needham

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