Thailand’s army chief announced a coup d’etat Thursday, taking control of the government in what he said was a bid to restore order and push through political reform.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha announced the military takeover in a live address on television, saying it was “necessary for the Peace and Order Maintaining Command — which includes army, navy, armed forces and police — to take control of governing the country.”
The full-blown coup — the 12th since 1932 — came three days after the military had invoked martial law over the political stalemate that followed the resignation of of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over corruption charges on May 7.
Her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile, was also ousted from power, in a military coup in 2006.
Party leaders who had been meeting to try to break the political stalemate were taken from the site of the meeting by troops who also sealed off the area, the BBC reports.
The military also ordered a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and sent out troops to remove protesters from rally sites, Reuters reports, quoting a senior army official.
A TV frame grab shows Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, center, announcing a coup May 22, 2014, after a breakdown of political talks.(Photo: Rungroj Yongrit, EPA)
Public reaction to the coup announcement initially was muted as opposition forces weighed their response.
“NOW it is COUP — stand by for a retaliation from the UDD,” the Red Shirts, a group still loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, said over Twitter as the news broke Thursday, although there have been no reports of violence and Prayuth urged the public not to panic.
The army chief said that the military would “provide protection” for foreigners in Thailand.
Opponents in Thailand’s polarizing political crisis had been meeting Thursday for a second round of talks mediated by Prayuth, who had summoned the bitter rivals in a bid to end the turmoil.
Many of the country’s highest-profile figures were summoned for the meeting including the acting prime minister, who sent cabinet ministers in his place, and the anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, as well as Suthep’s rival from the pro-government Red Shirt group, Jatuporn Prompan.
The coup announced Thursday was the 12th since the country’s absolute monarchy ended in 1932.