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Thailand’s General Prayuth Chan-Ocha declares coup d’etat and takes control of government


SavageTC

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THAILAND’S army has officially staged a coup, saying it is taking control of the country’s government.

As troops moved to surround a building where government talks on the nation’s crisis were scheduled to begin, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha declared the coup d’etat on national television.

“In order for the country to return to normal quickly the National Peace Keeping Committee comprised of the army, the Thai armed forces, the Royal Air Force and the police need to seize power as of May 22 at 4.30 pm,” the army chief said.

A 10pm to 5am curfew has since been imposed upon the strife-torn nation as soldiers moved to disperse protest gatherings. All national broadcasting was suspended and replaced with the commission’s announcements and broadcasts of patriotic music.

The military has also declared the country’s constitution has been suspended.

There was no immediate sign of soldiers patrolling central Bangkok, but troops were deployed to two areas of the capital where competing groups of protesters had gathered, raising fears of street clashes.

 

The opponents in Thailand’s political crisis had been meeting today for a second round of talks being mediated by the country’s army chief.

Martial law was invoked on Tuesday and the nation’s politicians summoned in what the general said was an effort to end six months of turmoil.

The closed-door talks at an army facility in Bangkok were taking place after the army gave itself expansive powers and broadly censoring the media. Most Thais had been watching the talks with a mix of scepticism and hope.

Suthep Thaugsuban, who has been leading more than six months of anti-government protests, was led away as hundreds of extra troops surrounded the venue.

The coup is the 12th since the country’s absolute monarchy ended in 1932.

 

“All Thais must remain calm and government officials must work as normal,’’ the general said.

The army chief said that the military would ``provide protection’’ for foreigners in Thailand.

Other protest leaders present at the talks were also later seen being taken away by the army, although it was unclear whether they had been formally detained.

Many of the country’s highest-profile figures were summoned for the gathering of political enemies. They included the acting prime minister — who declined to attend Wednesday’s first round of talks but sent four representatives in his place — and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, as well as Suthep’s rival from the pro-government Red Shirt group, Jatu**** Prompan.

 

Also summoned for the negotiations were leaders of the ruling Pheu Thai party and the opposition Democrat Party, as well as the five-member Election Commission and representatives from the Senate, which has anti-government members pushing a plan to replace the government with an appointed leader.

In a televised announcement on Thursday, the army said the ``meeting to solve the political conflict’’ would enter its second phase later in the day, and that the army chief ``would like to invite’’ the political leaders to return.

A government official, Paradorn Pattanathabutr, contacted shortly after the coup announcement said that the four ministers attending the meeting were still being held by the military.

``The rest of us who are outside are still fine and in the safe places. However, the situation is very worrying. We have to monitor it closely and don’t know what else can happen,’’ he said.

 

Tensions high

Thousands of the pro-government Red Shirt protesters are holding their own rally on the outskirts of Bangkok and say they will not tolerate the removal of the elected government.

One of the army’s explanations for declaring martial law was to avoid feared clashes between the two sides, and more violence in a crisis that has already left 28 people dead and hundreds injured, many by drive-by shootings and grenades hurled at protest sites.

Highlighting the threat of violence, the army announced Thursday that it had made five seizures of weapons this week in the provinces, including grenades, semiautomatic rifles and ammunition. The army said it had no immediate proof the weapons were related to political violence.

 

Background

Thailand has been gripped by bouts of political instability for more than seven years.

The political crisis broadly pits a Bangkok-based royalist elite and its backers against the billionaire family of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, a former tycoon-turned-populist politician, was ousted by the military in a coup in 2006 but still enjoys strong support, particularly in rural northern Thailand.

His sister Yingluck Shinawatra was dismissed as prime minister earlier this month in a controversial court ruling after months of protests seeking her overthrow.

Her supporters have warned of possible civil war if opposition demonstrators achieve their goal of seeing an unelected interim premier take power to oversee vaguely defined reforms widely seen as a bid to cripple the Thaksin family’s political power.

The military intervened three days ago when it declared martial law - but denied the takeover was a coup.

 

The English-language Bangkok Post ran a commentary Thursday titled ``Coup or No Coup, Task Ahead Is Huge.’’ The column questioned the military’s intentions and its stated goal of imposing martial law to bring about a democratic solution.

``Will the army chief be able to persuade politicians to bridge their differences and start talking, to place the national interest beyond that of their own? No one knows,’’ the column said. ``At this stage, the people realise they have no choice but to place their trust in the army chief.’’

Suthep’s anti-government movement, which started in November, had blocked elections and vowed to overthrow the Thai government. Thousands of his supporters were gathered in Bangkok’s historic district near the prime minister’s office compound, which has been vacant for months due to security concerns.

 

http://www.news.com.au/world/thailands-general-prayuth-chanocha-declares-coup-detat-and-takes-control-of-government/story-fndir2ev-1226927453780

 

 

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