Thailand under curfew amid army coup

  • 22 May 2014
  • From the section Asia
Media captionThe BBC's Jonathan Head, in Bangkok: "The BBC is off air, so is CNN. Most channels are now putting up a screen shot"

A curfew is in place across Thailand after the army announced it had taken control and suspended the constitution following months of political turmoil.

Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha imposed the 22:00 to 05:00 curfew along with a ban on political gatherings.

Key political figures were detained while others, including the acting PM and ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra, were ordered to report to the military.

The army said it needed to restore order and enact political reforms.

It declared martial law on Tuesday and gathered political leaders together in Bangkok for talks on the crisis.

However, Gen Prayuth went on TV on Thursday to announce the coup.

Several key figures at the talks, including opposition protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and pro-government protest leader Jatuporn Prompan, were detained.

Media captionThe moment Jonah Fisher and other reporters realised a coup was under way

Acting PM Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan was not at the talks and his whereabouts are unclear.

His adviser, Paradorn Pattanathabutr, told Associated Press: "The rest of us who are outside are still fine and in safe places."

Analysis: BBC's Jonah Fisher in Bangkok:

For many of the opposition PDRC's supporters, a coup is the end result they had been hoping for.

But questions remain. Did Gen Prayuth really expect to achieve success in talks in two short meetings? Or was it always his intention to make a token nod towards negotiations before stepping in?

Could the talks really have been a ruse to get all the key leaders in one place before detaining them?

There has been some suggestion that elements within the Thai army may have forced his hand.

The rush from martial law to full-blown coup has left many here shaking and scratching their heads.

Questions remain about sudden takeover

Mr Niwatthamrong and all his cabinet ministers, along with two former PMs - Ms Yingluck and Somchai Wongsawat - were ordered to report to the military. Some 23 members of the ruling Puea Thai party have been summoned in all.

The US led international calls condemning the coup.

'We weren't scared'

Protest groups in and around Bangkok have been dispersed but the operations were reported to have been largely peaceful.

Image caption Thai soldiers guard the Democracy Monument in Bangkok

One key flashpoint was the pro-government "red shirt" protest camp on Bangkok's western outskirts.

Hundreds of troops blocked cars from getting within 2km (1.2 miles) of the site - which was left eerily quiet as protesters packed up.

One of them, Eungkan, told Reuters news agency: "The troops came, the leaders left. We weren't scared. This coup will not help anyone."

Media captionThe coup comes after months of escalating tensions

Anti-government protesters were also seen packing up in central Bangkok.

There was heavy traffic on the streets of the capital as the curfew deadline loomed but they are now largely deserted.

Television has been restricted to broadcasts by the military. The BBC, CNN and other channels are off air.

The military issued a bulletin in the afternoon, spelling out the key points of the takeover:

Key coup conditions

  • Curfew nationwide from 22:00 to 05:00
  • Gen Prayuth to head ruling National Peace and Order Maintaining Council
  • Senate and courts to continue operating
  • 2007 constitution suspended except for chapter on monarchy
  • Political gatherings of more than five people banned, with penalties of up to a one-year jail term, 10,000 baht ($300; £180) fine, or both
  • Social media platforms could be blocked if they carry material with provocative content

The UN responded to the coup by expressing "serious concern", with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging a "prompt return to constitutional, civilian, democratic rule".

US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was "no justification for this military coup".

The US said up to $10m in bilateral assistance could be suspended.

The UK urged "all sides to put aside their differences, and adhere to the values of democracy and the rule of law".

Image caption Anti-government protesters pack up their camp in Bangkok ahead of the 22:00 curfew
Image caption Traffic was heavy in Bangkok in the run-up to the deadline...
Image caption ...but afterwards many of Bangkok's normally teeming neighbourhoods were empty

The French president and German foreign minister condemned the coup, while Japan's foreign ministry termed it "regrettable".

A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was important to hold "credible and inclusive elections as soon as feasible".

The army has staged at least 12 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.

The latest unrest began in the Thai capital late last year, when Ms Yingluck dissolved the lower house of parliament.

A court ordered her removal for alleged abuse of power this month.

Thailand has faced a power struggle since Ms Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by the military as PM in 2006.

Mr Thaksin and Ms Yingluck have strong support in rural areas. They are opposed by many in the middle class and urban elite.

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