By Patpicha Tanakasempipat
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's army detained two leaders of an opposition group on Monday who were planning to visit a public park dedicated to the monarchy that has been at the center of a corruption scandal involving the military government.
The allegations relating to the financing of the Rachabhakti Park, built on army property in the seaside town of Hua Hin, are threatening to damage an anti-graft drive by the junta, which seized power last year.
Nattawut Saikua and Jatuporn Prompan, leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the "red shirt" group, were taken away by the army before they could set off for the park.
Thanawut Wichaidit, a spokesman for the UDD, said the two men were taken away after giving media interviews.
"They wanted to see how the park was operating and to see the place where the military allegedly abused funds, but also to pay respects to past kings," he said.
"This is a violation of our right to pay respects."
The accusations of kickbacks, leveled by some Thai media and opposition groups, have transfixed a country anxious over the declining health of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87.
Nattawut and Jatuporn were taken to a military camp in Kanchanaburi, 111 km (69 miles) west of Bangkok.
Four military vehicles and plainclothes military officers went to his house on Sunday, Nattawut wrote on his Facebook page.
"Let it be known that seeking truth is dangerous," Nattawut wrote on Facebook.
But the ruling junta said it won't allow the opposition to play politics over the park which features giant statutes of former Thai kings.
"If they hope to go there to start a political issue, the army is not going to play that game," Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters on Monday.
"Honestly, they should not go."
(Additional reporting by Panarat Themgumpanat and Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Sanjeev Miglani)