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Thai military seizes power in coup, imposes curfew


By THANYARAT DOKSONE and JOCELYN GECKER

BANGKOK (AP) -- Thailand's military seized power Thursday in a bloodless coup, dissolving the government, suspending the constitution and dispersing groups of protesters from both sides of the country's political divide who had gathered in Bangkok and raised fears of a violent showdown.

The powerful army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced the military takeover in a statement broadcast on national television. It was followed by additional announcements including a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and an order for 18 government officials - including the ousted prime minister - to report immediately to the country's new governing military commission.

Soldiers kept a low profile in the center of the capital. But as curfew approached, troops diverted traffic at key intersections and used armored personnel carriers to block some main roads, including the one in front of the U.S. Embassy. Soldiers dispersed most demonstrators from two protest sites where competing groups were camped out - one backing the now-ousted elected government and another that had struggled for seven months to unseat it.

Although the military has insisted it wasn't taking sides, its ousting of the government met the key goal of the anti-government protesters. The pro-government "Red Shirt" supporters had earlier said they would not tolerate a coup, but there were no immediate signs of resistance or reports of violence. The military provided hundreds of buses to take the protesters home.

Long lines formed at the city's elevated train, subway stations and bus stations as panicked office workers tried to rush home before the curfew. Exceptions for the curfew were later announced for travelers and night shift workers, among others.

Flanked by the heads of the armed forces, Prayuth said the coup was launched "to quickly bring the situation back to normal, to let the people have love and unity as in the past, and to reform the political and economic systems - and to grant equality to every side."

"We ask the public not to panic and carry on their lives normally," Prayuth said, adding that the military would "provide protection" for foreigners in Thailand.

An army spokesman later announced that it had dissolved the caretaker government and suspended the constitution but that the Senate would remain in place. It also ordered the suspension of all television broadcasting and replaced programming with patriotic music to fill air time between announcements.

Thailand's public television station, Thai PBS, continued to broadcast for a few hours over YouTube before those transmissions also ceased. The wife of the station's deputy managing director, Vanchai Tantivitayapitak, said he was detained by soldiers in the master control room while running the program on YouTube and taken to a military camp.

CNN, BBC and other cable news channels were also taken off the air, but continued to report from Bangkok.

The coup was the 12th since Thailand's absolute monarchy ended in 1932.

"I hope the soldiers have come out this time to solve the problem once and for all. This is the fourth coup I've seen in my life now," said Pinkaew Pipatada, 65, a flower vendor at the Erawan shrine, a popular tourist site in central Bangkok.

The pivotal developments came after Prayuth had declared martial law on Tuesday in what he called a bid to resolve the crisis, and a day later summoned the country's rival political leaders for face-to-face talks. After two days of talks, the meeting failed to break the impasse.

Shortly before the announcement was made, armed soldiers in military vehicles surrounded the army facility where the politicians were meeting, apparently to block those inside from leaving.

Many of the country's highest-profile figures were summoned for the meeting. They included the acting prime minister - who sent four Cabinet ministers in his place - and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, as well as Suthep's rival from the pro-government Red Shirt group, Jatuporn Prompan. Suthep and Jatuporn were escorted out of the meeting by soldiers and detained.

A government official, Paradorn Pattanathabutr, contacted shortly after the announcement said the four ministers attending the meeting were still being held by the military.

"The rest of us who are outside are still fine and in the safe places. However, the situation is very worrying. We have to monitor it closely and don't know what else can happen," he said.

Thailand, an economic hub for Southeast Asia whose turquoise waters and idyllic beaches are a world tourist destination, has been gripped by off-and-on political turmoil since 2006, when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for Thailand's king.

His overthrow triggered a power struggle that in broad terms pits Thaksin's supporters among a rural majority against a conservative establishment in Bangkok.

The latest round of unrest started in November, when demonstrators took to the streets to try to oust then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister. She dissolved the lower house of Parliament in December in a bid to ease the crisis, and later led a weakened caretaker government.

Since November, 28 people have been killed and hundreds injured, mostly in drive-by shootings and grenade attacks on protest sites.

Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court ousted Yingluck for abuse of power. But the move, which left the ruling party in charge, did little to resolve the conflict.

The army action followed threats by anti-government protesters to intensify their campaign to oust the ruling party, and an attack last week on protesters that killed three people and injured over 20.

Prayuth invoked the military's expanded powers Tuesday and issued more than a dozen edicts that included broad powers of censorship over the media, the Internet and vaguely defined threats to prosecute opponents.

The military had insisted it was not seizing power, but said it was acting to prevent violence and restore stability in the deeply divided country. But he provided little clarity on a path forward, amid speculation both at home and abroad that the declaration of martial law was a prelude to a military coup.

---

Associated Press writers Todd Pitman, Grant Peck and Ian Mader contributed to this report.

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debnaert May 22 2014 at 8:31 AM

Does anyone REALIZE that our healthcare in this country is 6% of our GDP? I think the idiots that supported this phony in the WH are in for a huge surprise when they TRY to get healthcare. DECENT healthcare is GONE... and while the very ones that PAID all along for their healthcare, are now thrown under the bus for those that NEVER paid one thin dime into the bank. IF your POOR YOU chose that road... if your rich you worked your life away to gain what you have... the scum liberals would have you living in a country of communism IF they had their way. Hillary Clinton TALKS and CAMPAIGNS along these lines of communism... she is a traitor to what was once a great country. Pelosi is the BIGGEST traitor and REID is a quick follow up.... all you have to do is JUST listen to their insane RHETORIC.

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35 replies
brwnysbrb May 22 2014 at 8:18 AM

It does have to do with Obama. If he has his way, our country will soon see and have martial law too. Obama wants to have complete control of the people of our country. While allowing more n more immigrants to come into our country. Just wait and see.

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16 replies
debnaert May 22 2014 at 8:24 AM

If anyone is paying attention.... you will notice that the entire world has fallen apart since WE no long police any of it. Obama has emboldened world leaders and military leaders to do as they please... EXACTLY what HE INTENDED!

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8 replies
bocavert May 22 2014 at 8:59 AM

How to compare Thailands coupe to problems in the USA. Unfair distrubution of wealth, unfair taxation and corporate powers.

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6 replies
zmyhalo2010 May 22 2014 at 10:25 AM

As a Thai citizen, I have to say most of the information here is somewhat correct. But the reporter failed to appointed that the (so called) elected government won the votes from Thai farmers and working classes by buying their votes.
These groups of people don't have a good understanding of political and have a minimal education to understand how complicated and manipulated the government is.
When Prime Minister Ying Luck was in power, she administrated the government by the order of her brother, Taksin who skyped in all the time. The whole government were selected by their trusted people who benefited from corruption. The honest and good people couldn't stand against them. If anyone does, he would disappear without a trace.
How could they claimed this was democracy and elected government?
How much more damage they could cause Thailand if they are still have the power.
This is how it should end for a better beginning.
FYI, millions joined the protesters peacefully over 6 months.

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11 replies
halt1025 May 22 2014 at 7:58 AM

obomacare

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
lvdkeyes halt1025 May 22 2014 at 8:04 AM

PLease tell me how an article about Thailand's coup has anything to do with "obomacare"? What a boob!

Flag Reply +18 rate up
2 replies
wardo22 lvdkeyes May 22 2014 at 2:30 PM

Democrat Charlie Dingle on the drafting of Obamacare "It takes a lot of hard work and preparation to create a system that will control the people".

Flag +3 rate up
adrastia9 lvdkeyes May 22 2014 at 10:28 PM

Nothing. It's just that some people are too lazy to make their own blogs. So they pollute every news story comment section they can find with the same posts over and over. I've come to expect it so I ignore them.

Flag 0 rate up
Michelle halt1025 May 22 2014 at 2:40 PM

You mean Bozocare....

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
ganderrrr Michelle May 22 2014 at 3:01 PM

He is your president and you can do nothing about it:)

Flag 0 rate up
jgm005 May 22 2014 at 7:15 AM

And so it goes again. As someone who is living in Thailand (Nongbulamphu) each government has its worthless points. The power lies in the hands of the Royalists but the popular vote lies with the folks in the North and NE

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
brwnysbrb jgm005 May 22 2014 at 8:19 AM

The power has always lied in the hands of the rich. The very same is happening to the USA. Martial law is very close here too. If Obama gets his way, it will be here, along with his drones.

Flag Reply +17 rate up
7 replies
ronbobel7 jgm005 May 22 2014 at 8:44 AM

cant criticize royal family or you will be put in prison for lese majeste. they are out to protect their $35 billion fortune. the royal son is a real nut who the people cant stand.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
zmyhalo2010 ronbobel7 May 22 2014 at 10:36 AM

The $35 billion fortune are there for Thai citizen public benefit. You should do more research before spread such rumor.
As to criticize the royal family, if it is to destroy the reputation of the king and the stability of the kingdom, then yes you should be jailed for.

Flag +4 rate up
kmcc895370 ronbobel7 May 22 2014 at 9:49 PM

and what's America's excuse for the same things? things need to be straightened out here too.

Flag 0 rate up
ramonbatt May 22 2014 at 9:00 AM

Engagement gone wrong? Do we really care about the garbage? Come on HP?

Flag Reply +5 rate up
bigred8690 May 22 2014 at 9:52 AM

This is why we have to keep liberals out of our military, so they don't get any ideas. Bradley Manning--scratch one.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
ganderrrr bigred8690 May 22 2014 at 4:31 PM

If not for liberals, we'd have no military.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
brad May 22 2014 at 10:37 AM

So far, this story hasn't received as much media attention as the new US postal stamp with Harvey Milk , gay rights pioneer....You also wont see it on the mainstream news since it doesn't advance the liberal narrative that the world is more peaceful and safer under Obama.....

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
ganderrrr brad May 22 2014 at 4:30 PM

The world is what it is regardless of who the American president is. The USA isn't the World Police. It's just another country.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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