Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014

Witnesses give account of how Thai coup unfolded

Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. (Source : AP photo) Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. (Source : AP photo)
Associated Press | Bangkok | Posted: May 24, 2014 9:38 am

talks resumed Thursday, the atmosphere was much different.

Participants were ordered to leave their cellphones outside, more soldiers were on guard and they were heavily armed. Prayuth opened the meeting, saying his aim was to bring peace.

“What I’m doing today is in the interest of security,” he said, in a video released by the military’s TV station. “If this steps over anyone, then I have to apologize. I insist that I will honor every side, always.”

An hour later, there was, predictably, no agreement, the lawmaker said. The talks kept returning to a single point: how would the government go?

Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the Cabinet could sacrifice for the nation and resign. Somebody else suggested that the civilian administration might just “take leave.” Others said ministers could step down one by one, or en masse.

The government officials said “they couldn’t do it, claiming they were brought to power by the people and therefore could not step down,” said Sirichoke Sopha, a former member of Parliament from the opposition Democrat Party who was present at the talks. “We pleaded for them to step back, asking them to sacrifice to save democracy, because we looked at the situation and it didn’t look good.”

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban then held a private meeting with rival pro-Thaksin leader Jatuporn Prompan. They spoke, accompanied by aides, for 45 minutes. Afterward, both leaders whispered with Prayuth in a corner for a brief minute.

When the meeting resumed, Prayuth asked Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri if the government was still insisting it would not step down.

“We will not,” Chaikasem replied, according to the lawmaker.

Prayuth then told a representative from the Election Commission not to bother planning a vote anytime soon because it would be a “long time” before a ballot could take place. He told representatives of the Senate not to bother with trying to invoke a constitutional clause they had been pressing for to appoint an interim prime minister.

And then, Prayuth stood up and addressed the room.

“Sorry. I’m taking power” from this moment on, he said calmly, according to Sirichoke.

Another lawmaker who recounted the same narrative of Thursday’s meeting, and also spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, said it was not immediately clear if Prayuth was joking.

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