Thai military ‘detains’ ex-premier

May 24, 2014 - 12:26:41 am
A man lies on the ground in front of police, holding a placard during a protest against martial law, a day after the army chief seized power in a coup, in central Bangkok yesterday.

BANGKOK: Thailand’s military rulers detained former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday, a senior officer said, after summoning her for talks a day after the army overthrew her caretaker government in a coup.

As the army moved to consolidate its grip on the country, its chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, set out his plans for the country, saying reforms were needed before an election. But some Thais defied martial law to protest against the takeover. 

Prayuth launched his coup after rival factions refused to give ground in a struggle for power between the royalist establishment and Yingluck’s populist government that had raised fears of serious violence and damaged the economy.

“We have detained Yingluck, her sister and brother-in-law,” a senior military officer said. The two relatives have held top political posts.  We will do so for not more than week, that would be too long. We just need to organise matters in the country first,” said the officer.

He declined to say where Yingluck was being held, but media said she was at an army base in Saraburi province, north of Bangkok. Soldiers detained politicians from both sides on Thursday after Prayuth announced the military takeover, which drew swift international condemnation.

In what appeared to be a coordinated operation to neutralise possible opposition to the coup, the military summoned the ousted Yingluck to a meeting and then banned her and 154 others, including politicians and activists, from leaving Thailand.

Responding to the summons, Yingluck arrived at an army facility at noon along with other politicians. Prayuth was there at the same time but there was no confirmation they met.

An aide to a minister in the ousted government who declined to be identified said some people, including his minister, had been detained. A former aide to Yingluck said she been out of telephone contact for hours.Prayuth also summoned hundreds of civil servants and told them he needed their help.  

The military has censored the media, dispersed rival protesters and imposed a nationwide 10pm to 5am curfew. The armed forces have a long history of intervening in politics  there have been 18 previous successful or attempted coups since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

Bangkok was mostly calm and life appeared normal but there was some opposition to the takeover. Several hundred people, including students, gathered in a central shopping district despite a ban on protests by five or more people to voice their opposition to military rule. Some held signs saying “No coup” and “Get Out Dictators”.

About 200 soldiers lined up across a road to contain the protesters and eventually dispersed them. There was no serious trouble but at least one person was detained, a witness said.

The military suspended television and radio broadcasts on Thursday and made channels broadcast its material, but six free-to-air channels came back on the air late yesterday. Several satellite channels including partisan ones on both sides, remained banned. International news channels were off the air and the military threatened to block provocative websites.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday there was no justification for a coup which would have “negative implications” for ties with its ally, especially military ones.

The military briefed diplomats yesterday though some declined the invitation, apparently as a gesture of disapproval. Prayuth is a member of the royalist establishment generally seen as hostile to the Shinawatras, although he tried for months to keep the army out of the strife and to appear even-handed. The army chief, who is 60 and due to retire later this year, has taken over the powers of prime minister but it was not clear if he intended to hold on to the position.REUTERS

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