Thai Army Chief summons ousted PM for talks, world leaders criticise coup

Thai Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha summoned ousted PM Yingluck saying he wanted to restore order in the country.

By: Reuters | Bangkok | Published: May 23, 2014 9:20:47 am
Thai soldiers move in to a pro-government demonstration site after the military seized power Thursday, May 22, 2014, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's new military junta has announced that it has suspended the country's constitution. A military statement broadcast on national television Thursday confirmed the nation's caretaker government is no longer in power but said the Senate will remain in place. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn) Thai military seized power on Thursday in a coup. Thailand’s new military junta has announced that it has suspended the country’s constitution. (AP Photo)

Thai Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha summoned ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to a meeting on Friday, a day after he seized power in a bloodless coup, saying he wanted to restore order following months of turmoil in the polarised country.

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

Soldiers briefly detained politicians from both sides when Prayuth announced the coup after talks he was presiding over broke down. The military censored the media, dispersed rival protesters in Bangkok and imposed a nationwide curfew between 10 pm and 5 am.

Bangkok was calm and activity appeared to be relatively normal early on Friday, although the military has ordered all schools and universities to stay closed.

Public transport was running after the curfew ended and early traffic was light, but cars were moving slowly on some roads into the capital because of army checkpoints.

Regular television schedules were suspended with all stations running the same news programme, featuring content from Channel 5, the army’s own channel.

It showed pictures of the areas, now cleared, that had been taken over in and around Bangkok by various political groups since anti-government protests flared up last November. Other footage showed people going about their business normally in cities around the country.Some were interviewed, saying they welcomed the coup.

The military has summoned Yingluck and 22 associates, including powerful relatives and ministers in her government, to a meeting at an army facility at 10 am (0300 GMT) on Friday.

It was not clear if Yingluck would attend the meeting. She is thought to be in the north of the country, a Thaksin stronghold.

She was forced to step down as Prime Minister by a court on May 7, but her caretaker government had remained nominally in power, even after the army declared martial law on Tuesday.

Any meeting could set the tone for Prayuth’s rule as he tries to steer the country out of crisis and fend off international criticism of the latest lurch into military rule.

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

“The path forward for Thailand must include early elections that reflect the will of the people,” said Kerry in a statement. He also called for the release of detained politicians.

There was also condemnation from France, the European Union and the United Nations human rights office. Japan said the coup was regrettable and Australia said it was “gravely concerned.”

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 stay in the position.

The anti-Thaksin protesters had demanded electoral changes that would end the Shinawatras’ success at the ballot box. Thaksin or his parties have won every election since 2001.

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