Friday, 23 May 2014

International outcry as curfew and blackout descend on Thailand

Bangkok: Thailand’s army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha appointed himself acting prime minister and summoned 114 prominent political figures to a meeting, a day after seizing power in a bloodless coup that has sparked an international outcry.

Among those ordered to a military complex were former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was forced from office earlier this month, and several members of her family.

Also summoned were key members of Ms Yingluck’s ousted Pheu Thai party, officials of the opposition Democrat party and former high-ranking soldiers and police with political affiliations.

Ms Yingluck’s vehicle drove away after she arrived for the meeting.
It was unclear why the people were being ordered to the meeting.

The army said if they failed to turn up they would be arrested.

A further 155 people have been put on a list preventing them leaving the country, including Ms Yingluck.

Ms Yingluck’s Red Shirt supporters in north and north-eastern strongholds have vowed to retaliate over the coup late on Thursday which General Prayuth declared was to restore stability and normality and stop violence that has left 29 people dead and hundreds injured since last November.

Ms Yingluck’s replacement for a brief three weeks, Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, surrendered on Friday morning at a heavily guarded army building, dispelling rumours circulating in social media that he was planning to announce a parallel government.

General Prayuth, 60, moved swiftly to censor the media, suspend the 2007 constitution, ban gatherings of more than five people, impose a nationwide 10pm-to-5am curfew and detain key political leaders from rival groups in Thailand’s 19th coup or attempted coup since the 1930s.
Thai media reported that he implemented the coup moments after government representatives at a meeting he called refused his demand to resign en masse.

Orders by the junta are being read several times over radio and television stations which  are otherwise blacked out, under military control, playing only traditional music.

One order prohibits the media from interviewing former government officials, academics, judges or other members of independent organisations “in a way that may create conflict or confusion among the public".

Despite the coup, Bangkok’s 10 million residents appeared to be going about their normal business, although schools were ordered closed.

Public transport was running after the curfew ended and early traffic was light, but cars were moving slowly on some roads into the capital because of army checkpoints.

Several small groups of anti-coup protesters appeared in several locations in Bangkok, defying the order not to gather.

Troops have dispersed  anti-government and pro-government protest camps in different parts of Bangkok, leaving the city free of protesters for the first time in six months.

However countries around the world have condemned the takeover. US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was “no justification” for a coup that would have “negative implications” for relations with one of the US’s closest allies in Asia.

He called for “early elections that reflect the will of the people” while the Pentagon said it was reviewing co-operation with Thailand’s military.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was “gravely concerned".

“We are monitoring it closely but people need to pay close attention to their personal security and their travel plans,” she said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was “seriously concerned", his spokesman said, and urged “constitutional, civilian and democratic rule".

General Prayuth called foreign ambassadors, military attaches and representatives of international organisations to a briefing on Friday.

The briefing aimed to create understanding and maintain good relations with other countries, a junta statement said.

General Prayuth has made no mention of holding fresh elections or appointing an interim civilian administration.

The takeover comes at a time of deep anxiety in Thailand over the ailing 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

General Prayuth is believed to have met the king at the royal palace in Hua Hin, in the south of the country.

The conflict pits the country's majority rural poor against an urban-based elite in Bangkok.

At the heart of the crisis is Ms Yingluck’s elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption but still wields enormous influence over Thailand’s political affairs.





Post a Comment

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Facebook Themes