Thai political groups and army resume talks

Negotiations continue for second day in bid to resolve polarising political crisis which saw army declaring martial law.

Last updated: 22 May 2014 08:55
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General Prayut Chan-Ocha has declared martial law, giving the army expansive powers [AFP]

Rival groups involved in Thailand's polarising political crisis have begun a second round of talks mediated by the country's army chief.

Thursday's meeting comes a day after the first crisis talks to try to end six months of turmoil ended inconclusively.

The closed-door discussions at an army facility in the capital Bangkok are taking place three days after Generel Prayuth Chan-Ocha declared martial law, giving the army expansive powers and broadly censoring the media.

Earlier this month, Yingluck Shinawatra was removed as prime minister, along with nine cabinet ministers, for violating the country's constitution.

The dismissal was brought about by a lawsuit filed by anti-government senators who accused Yingluck of nepostism.

Most Thais are watching the talks with a mix of skepticism and hope.

Many of the country's highest-profile figures were summoned for the gathering, the AP news agency reported.

Those summoned included the acting prime minister - who declined to attend Wednesday's first round of talks but sent four representatives in his place - and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban.

Suthep's rival from the pro-government Red Shirt group, Jatuporn Prompan, was also summoned.

Others taking part were leaders of the ruling Pheu Thai party and the opposition Democrat Party, as well as the five-member Election Commission and representatives from the Senate, which has anti-government members pushing a plan to replace the government with an appointed leader.

Elections blocked 

Suthep's anti-government movement, which started in November, has blocked elections and vowed to overthrow the government.

Thousands of his supporters are gathered in a historic Bangkok district near the prime minister's office compound, which has been vacant for months due to security concerns.

In a televised announcement on Thursday, the army said the "meeting to solve the political conflict" would enter its second phase later in the day, and that the army chief "would like to invite" the political leaders to return.

The army warned, however, that supporters of the two protest groups "must not follow them, and stay put at protest sites."

Prayuth has said that without the imposition of martial law, the political opponents, who had declined to meet in the past, would never have come together.

The military has insisted that it is not seizing power, but that it is acting to prevent violence and restore stability.

But in a country that has experienced 11 coups in modern history, the army's action remains unclear.


Meanwhile, the leader of Thailand's pro-government "Red Shirt" movement called on Thursday for a national referendum to resolve the political deadlock.

Prompan said he had made the proposal during Wednesday's talks, the AFP news agency reported.

"Whatever the outcome is, we are ready to accept it [a referendum result]," Jatuporn said at a news conference. "We are not extremists who don't listen to anything."

Thailand has been gripped by bouts of political turmoil since 2006, when the army toppled then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, after he was accused of corruption, abuse of power and other charges leveled by the country's ruling elite. 


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