Thai army takes power in coup after talks between rivals fail

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

Thai soldiers stand in line blocking the entrance to the Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand (Source: AP)
By: Press Trust of India | Bangkok | Updated: May 22, 2014 9:34 pm

for graft, but still commands the loyalty of legions of rural and urban poor and exerts a huge influence over politics, most recently through a government run by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

He was not available for comment but a pro-Thaksin activist in his hometown of Chiang Mai said there was no immediate plan to protest. “As of now we will not head to Bangkok, no plans. We will follow today’s situation closely first,” said the activist, Mahawon Kawang. Some of Thailand’s neighbours were dismayed, and there was widespread international condemnation, including from France and the United Nations human rights office.

Japan said the coup was regrettable and it called for a swift restoration of democracy. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was “gravely concerned” by the “regrettable development” and warned tourists to be careful. Commuters struggled through Bangkok’s traffic to get home before the curfew.

In a first round of talks on Wednesday, Prayuth had called on the two sides to agree on a compromise that would have hinged around the appointment of an interim prime minister, political reforms and the timing of an election.

But neither side backed down from their entrenched positions on Wednesday and again on Thursday, participants said.

“As we cannot find a way to bring the country to peace and everyone won’t back down I would like to announce that I will take power. Everyone must sit still,” Prayuth told the meeting, according to one participant who declined to be identified.
Leaders of the ruling Puea Thai Party and the opposition Democrat Party, the Senate leader and the five-member Election Commission had joined the talks on Thursday.
Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, who did not attend, told reporters his government could not resign as its enemies were demanding.

“The government wants the problem solved in a democratic way which includes a government that comes from elections,” he said. Yingluck was forced to step down as premier by a court two weeks ago, but her caretaker government, buffeted by six months of protests against it, had remained nominally in power.

Outgoing government officials were not available for comment after the coup. Thailand’s gross domestic product contracted 2.1 percent in January-March from the previous three months, largely because of the unrest, adding to fears it is stumbling into recession. But weary investors have generally taken Thailand’s frequent political upheavals in their stride, and analysts said the impact on markets in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy might not be too severe.

“It’s back to the old days,” said Christopher Wong, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management Asia in Singapore. “Probably with the military coming in there’s a bit more stability. There may be a knee-jerk reaction … but as the dust settles it is probably back to normal.”

Thailand’s SET index closed before the coup announcement, ending 0.2 percent higher. The index is up 8 percent this year. The baht weakened to 32.54 to the dollar after the coup announcement, from 32.38 earlier. The anti-government protesters want to rid the country of the …continued »

First Published on: May 22, 2014 5:35 pmSingle Page Format
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