Thailand under curfew after army takeover

Army chief declares himself as the prime minister after military seizes power in country’s 12th coup since 1932.

A nationwide curfew has been imposed in Thailand after the country’s military seized power by dissolving the government and suspending the constitution.

General Prayut Chan-Ocha, the army chief, announced on Thursday that a military commission that had imposed martial law a day earlier would take control of the country’s government. He later declared himself the country’s prime minister. 

The nationwide 10pm – 5am curfew was immediately put into effect.

Al Jazeera’s Veronica Pedrosa, reporting from Bangkok, said, “You could see the stalls that are usually open along the very busy Sukhumvit Road, the main commercial street here, packing up, getting ready to go home and the traffic was absolutely horrendous, worse than Bangkok traffic usually is, as everyone tried to rush home.”

Pedrosa added that the curfew would not be strictly enforced during the first night.

“Everyone will probably get home okay without fear of arrest,” she said, adding that people seemed to be following orders without being told what to do.

Thais “know what it’s like to be under military rule,” she said.

This is the country’s 12th coup since the absolute monarchy ended in 1932. There had been 19 attempted coups as well in the period.

Failed negotiations

Thursday’s coup announcement came after a second day of negotiations in the capital Bangkok between the army, political groups, senators and members of the election commission failed to resolve the country’s political crisis.

“It is necessary for the Peace and Order Maintaining Command – which includes army, navy, armed forces and police – to take control of governing the country,” Chan-Ocha said.

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Hundreds of troops surrounded the venue of the talks from where Suthep Thaugsuban, who led more than six months of anti-government protests, was taken away.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Bangkok, said; “The army [now] controls everything in the government. We do not know what is going to happen to the leaders of the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts.”

The Red Shirts, so-called because of the colour of their outfits, support the government that has been in power while the Yellow Shirts oppose what they call Thaksin Shinawatra’s legacy and influence on Thai politics.

Thaksin, who was removed from power in 2006 in a coup, is the brother of Yingluck, who became prime minister in July 2011 and was removed earlier this month, 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 nepotism.

The country’s new rulers have ordered Yingluck and three of her relatives to report to the armed forces on Friday by 10am local time.

A bulletin read out on national television gave no hint of what might happen after their appearances.

Possible uprisings

Independent analyst David Streckfuss, based in the Red Shirt heartland of Khon Kaen, told Al Jazeera that the military intervention was an effort to sideline the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), made up of Red Shirts and the politicians they have consistently voted in since 2000.

He warned the move would likely lead to the Red Shirts rising up as they did in 2010 when they took over Bangkok’s central business district for months before the protest was crushed by the military, killing about 90 people.

“There is an effort to break the will of the UDD and government so that something more along with what [the anti-government] PDRC wants can be brought in,” Streckfuss said.

“If a PDRC-friendly government is installed … then the Red Shirts will respond sharply.”

The leader of the Red Shirts said the political group would continue its rally on the outskirts of Bangkok despite the military seizing control of the government and telling all protest groups to disperse.

“We will not go anywhere. Don’t panic because we expected this,” Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan told supporters.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies