Thailand crisis: Talks continue amid deadlock

Both sides hold deeply entrenched positions, as Jonah Fisher reports

Parties on both sides of Thailand's political divide are to meet for a second round of talks, amid deadlock in the protest-hit nation.

The meeting is being convened by army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

The first round of talks involving the government and two main protest factions ended on Wednesday without reaching any conclusion.

Thailand has been under martial law since Tuesday. The army says it wants to help end the political crisis.

The parties are discussing whether political reforms should take place before or after elections, when these should be and whether an appointed government should be put in place in the interim.

But given both sides hold deeply entrenched positions, a quick agreement appears almost impossible, says the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Bangkok.

Thai Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha exits the army club Wednesday, 21 May, in Bangkok, Thailand General Prayuth (right), seen here exiting Wednesday's inconclusive meeting, says he is not interfering in government
A Thai mother and daughter have their photograph taken with a soldier guarding the area near a pro-government demonstration site on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, on 21 May. Soldiers have been deployed near demonstration sites since the start of martial law on Tuesday

Thailand's martial law - explained in 60 seconds

The army has so far claimed to be political neutral. But if talks do not progress, this position will be under intense scrutiny, says our correspondent.

The army has denied that its declaration of martial law amounts to a military coup.

Amid the political uncertainty, life goes on in the nation's capital, with Bangkok's malls, temples and offices open.

Thailand has seen six months of unrest since protesters began a campaign in November 2013 to oust the government. At least 28 people have been killed and hundreds injured.

The army announced martial law in the early hours of Tuesday with the intention to "preserve order and bring back peacefulness".

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Thailand's martial law act of 1914
  • Gives the army chief control without PM's assent
  • Grants the military full powers to:
  1. Summon officials and individuals for investigation
  2. Search and seize individuals or items
  3. Order compulsory military service and forced labour
  4. Prohibit assemblies, media coverage, advertising, public transport
  5. Destroy "enemy" dwellings and build army barracks anywhere

Thailand's turbulent history of military coups

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Citing a 1914 law that allows intervention during times of crisis, soldiers took over both pro and anti-government TV and radio stations in Bangkok.

Thailand has been trapped in a cycle of political deadlock since the military ousted Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister in 2006.

He was widely admired by poor, rural voters - who have since elected Thaksin-allied governments in both post-coup elections - but despised by the urban elite, who form the core of the current protest movement.

His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, led the current government until she was ousted by a court earlier this month.

Acting PM Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan has asked for new elections to be called for August, after a snap poll in February was annulled because it was disrupted by protesters.

But the protesters say Shinawatra family money has corrupted Thailand's democracy and want an appointed administration to reform the political system before polls are held.

Any move to appoint a new administration, however, would infuriate "red-shirt" government supporters, who have vowed to protest.

The army has staged at least 11 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.

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