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Thai crisis meeting ends without agreement

Rival groups told by army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha to "go back home" and prepare for another meeting on Thursday.

Last updated: 21 May 2014 10:38
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A crisis meeting between leaders of rival Thai political groups aimed at resolving long-running conflict has ended inconclusively, with the army calling for another meeting on Thursday, a participant has said.

"The army chief asked us to go back home and think about the things we discussed in order to find a solution for the country," Puchong Nutrawong, secretary-general of the Election Commission, told the Reuters news agency.

He said the group would meet again at 2pm (07:00 GMT) on Thursday.

Wednesday's meeting came a day after army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared martial law to try to resolve a decade-long crisis that has raised fears of civil war.

Thailand has been stuck in political limbo since Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine of her ministers were dismissed on May 7 after a constitutional court found them guilty of abuse of power.

The move came after months of anti-government protests that have left 28 people dead and hundreds wounded.

"We ask all sides to come and talk to find a way out for the country," Prayuth told reporters after meeting directors of government agencies and other high-ranking officials.

Government 'sidelined'

Both pro- and anti-government protesters are camped out at different places in the capital Bangkok and the army has warned them against marching to prevent clashes.

Al Jazeera's Veronica Pedrosa, reporting from Bangkok, said: "Whatever roadmap they come up with is not likely to be able to please both the Red Shirts - who want the leaders they elected to be in office - or the Yellow Shirts, who will do everything they can to remove the legacy of the Thaksin Sinawatra dynasty and influence on politics here."

IN PICTURES: Thailand's political crisis

An announcement on military-run television said that the imposition of martial law was not a coup and affirmed that the caretaker government was still running the country. 

"The public do not need to panic but can still live their lives as normal," it said.

Niwattumrong issued his own plea for harmony in the country, telling reporters the government wanted "peace and order to prevail in the country".

Martial law allows the military to take over power from the police and other state authorities. The army can now search people, homes, vehicles and even open letters and messages.

Media censorship

Troops, some in jeeps mounted with machine guns, stopped some traffic from entering Bangkok after the martial law order.

They also took up positions at intersections and secured television stations, but life went on as normal in most of the city.

Critics accused the army of media censorship after it ordered 10 satellite TV channels, both pro- and anti-government, to stop broadcasting.

The military, which put down a protest movement against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, in 2010, has staged numerous coups since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

The last one was in 2006 to oust Thaksin, who has lived abroad since 2008 but wields political influence and commands huge support among the poor.

Anti-government protesters want a "neutral" prime minister to oversee electoral reforms aimed at ending Thaksin's influence.

They disrupted a February 2 election that Thaksin's loyalists looked set to win. It was later declared void.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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