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Thailand army stages a coup, detains leaders

ON GUARD: Soldiers outside Bangkok's Army Club yesterday. Troops took away Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the protests against the pro-Thaksin government.


    May 23, 2014

    Thailand army stages a coup, detains leaders


    TWO days after declaring martial law, the Thai military yesterday seized full control of the country - the second time in a decade that the country's army has overthrown an elected government.

    The military, which had invited political leaders to a second day of talks yesterday on how to resolve the country's political deadlock, detained the meeting participants instead.

    The head of the army, Prayuth Chan-ocha, then announced the coup on national television, saying it was "necessary to seize power".

    "In order for the country to return to normal quickly, the National Peace Keeping Committee, comprising the army, the Thai armed forces, the Royal Air Force and the police, needs to seize power as of May 22 at 4.30pm," General Prayuth said.

    He said power would be held by the committee, which he will lead. The military announced emergency measures in quick succession, including a curfew from 10pm to 5am. It told protesters to go home, and prohibited gatherings of more than five people at a time for "political purposes".

    The Constitution was suspended, and coup leaders ordered members of the now-deposed government's Cabinet to report to the military.

    The Thai military has carried out a dozen coups since the end of direct rule by kings in 1932, with three governments overthrown since 2006 by the army or via judicial action. The last coup, in 2006, was followed by more than a year of military rule.

    "The most obvious narrative is that Prayuth herded all of these people into a room, and decided they were all beyond compromise and decided he needed to seize power, but it's got to be more complicated than that," said Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

    "Now the military has inherited a big mess, and how they will manage things in a way that they don't end up in the trouble they ended up in 2006 and 2007 is what we need to look at."

    Hundreds of soldiers surrounded the meeting at Bangkok's Army Club shortly before the coup announcement, and troops took away Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the protests against the pro-Thaksin government. Some of the other meeting participants were held back at the venue afterwards.

    Gen Prayuth said in his announcement that the king was "above the entire conflict".

    The military "will protect and worship the monarchy", he said.