Image: Soldiers
Adrees Latif  /  Reuters
Thai army soldiers stand guard at a makeshift check point in southern Thailand's Pattani province, nearly 660 miles south of Bangkok, on Saturday.
updated 9/25/2006 12:02:42 AM ET 2006-09-25T04:02:42

Thailand’s new military rulers banned all political gatherings and activities at the local level Sunday, further cementing their powers, and the wife of the ousted prime minister left the country to join her husband, an airlines officials said.

The ousted leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, is in exile in London, and his wife, Pojamarn, left the for England on a Thai Airways international flight early Monday, carrying five suitcases, said the official on condition of anonymity because he is unauthorized to give statements to the press.

Pojamarn is widely regarded to have wielded great influence on her husband’s decisions.

Also Monday, a newly created anti-graft commission met to begin an urgent probe into allegations of corruption under the fallen government. The military rulers said the panel will have the power to seize assets of politicians and their families.

The military hopes to justify its takeover by exposing what it alleges was extensive corruption under Thaksin.

Interim civilian government?
The ruling military council, under pressure from critics at home and abroad, said Sunday an interim civilian government may be announced in the next week.

The military had said it would hand over power to civilians within two weeks of Tuesday’s coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and that a new election would be held by October of next year.

Western governments and human rights groups have decried the takeover, particularly after the military leaders began restricting freedom of assembly and speech. The military is ruling under martial law and public gatherings of more than five people are banned.

It has also called on the media to exercise self-censorship.

The latest order — announced on local television stations Sunday night — calls for all organizations at the district and provincial levels “to stop their activities and political gathering until the situation returns to normal.”

Maj. Gen. Tanongsak Apirakyothin, the deputy army chief for Thailand’s northern provinces, told The Associated Press there had been some meetings of local politicians in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Thaksin’s hometown and stronghold, and they “criticized the coup as wrong.”

Military officials approached them and asked them to stop their activities, he said.

Although the coup met with no resistance and was generally welcomed by the Thai people, there had been rumors of a possible countercoup in the first few days.

Military leaders last week revived the state National Counter Corruption Commission, appointing its nine members to carry out investigations into state corruption.

Speculation has been rife in Thailand that the democratically elected Thaksin may have sneaked some of his wealth out of the country just before the coup, but the military council has not confirmed this.

100 cases and trunks
Airline officials said Sunday that two planes chartered by Thaksin days before the takeover were carrying an unusually large amount of luggage — more than 100 cases and trunks. Thaksin was in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly when the coup occurred.

Thaksin’s critics say the former prime minister, a telecommunications tycoon before becoming a politician, used his office to enrich himself and his associates. The former prime minister’s family was one of the wealthiest in Southeast Asia even before he came to office in 2001.

Thaksin’s decline, after three overwhelming election victories since 2001, began after a large popular movement sprang up demanding he step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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