Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main
encampment after the coup was declared in Bangkok.
Thailand's army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has
seized control of the government in a coup, two days after
declaring martial law, saying the military had to restore order
and push through reforms after six months of turmoil.
The military declared a 10pm until 5am curfew, suspended the
constitution and told outgoing cabinet ministers to report to
an army base in the north of the capital. Rival protest camps
were ordered to disperse and media censored.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was no
justification for a coup which would have "negative
implications" for ties. The United States was reviewing its
military and other assistance "consistent with US law".
Thailand is locked in a protracted power struggle between
supporters of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and
opponents backed by the royalist establishment that has
polarised the country and battered its economy.
"In order for the situation to return to normal quickly and
for society to love and be at peace again ... and to reform
the political, economic and social structure, the military
needs to take control of power," Prayuth said in the
The general made his broadcast after a meeting to which he
had summoned the rival factions in the drawn-out political
conflict, with the aim of finding a compromise to end six
months of anti-government protests.
But no progress was made and Prayuth wound up the gathering
by announcing he was seizing power, according to a
The Thai armed forces have a long history of intervening in
politics - there have been 18 previous successful or
attempted coups since the country became a constitutional
monarchy in 1932, most recently when Thaksin was deposed in
Hundreds of soldiers surrounded the meeting at Bangkok's Army
Club shortly before the coup announcement and troops took
away Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the protests against the
Some political party leaders were also detained.
Prayuth assumed the duties and responsibilities of the prime
minister, the military said.
SHOTS FIRED INTO AIR
The army ordered rival protest camps to break up and soldiers
fired into the air to disperse thousands of pro-government
"red shirt" activists gathered in Bangkok's western
outskirts. The military detained at least one leader of the
activists, said a spokesman for the group, Thanawut
The protesters later left peacefully and the military laid on
transport to take people away.
The army also ordered television and radio stations to halt
normal programmes and broadcast its material, and banned
gatherings of more than five people. It said it would suspend
websites that spread false information or incited unrest.
Earlier, it warned people not to spread inflammatory material
on social media.
The army had declared martial law on Tuesday, saying it was
necessary to prevent violence.
Twenty-eight people have been killed and 700 injured since
the anti-government protests erupted late last year.
"Martial law may have been to test the waters, the army gave
the opposing camps a chance to negotiate a way out but I
think the endgame was always the military taking over," said
Kan Yuanyong of the Siam Intelligence Unit think-tank.
"The possibility of conflict is now much higher," he said.
"Thaksin will fight back."
Former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin has lived in
self-exile since 2008 to avoid a jail term for graft, but
still commands the loyalty of legions of rural and urban poor
and exerts a huge influence over politics, most recently
through a government run by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
He was not available for comment but a pro-Thaksin activist
in his hometown of Chiang Mai said there was no immediate
plan to protest.
"As of now we will not head to Bangkok, no plans. We will
follow today's situation closely first," said Mahawon Kawang.
Kerry said he was disappointed and concerned by reports that
political leaders had been detained, and called for their
"This act will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai
relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai
military," he said in a statement.
The Pentagon said it was reviewing its military assistance
and engagements, including an ongoing exercise involving
about 700 U.S. Marines and sailors.
Under U.S. law, no foreign aid may flow to a country whose
duly elected head of government is deposed in a coup, but the
language of the law gives the Obama administration some
latitude in how to interpret it.
It would be unusual for the U.S. State Department to make any
quick decision on whether such assistance had to be cut off.
There was condemnation from France and the United Nations
human rights office.
Japan said the coup was regrettable and it called for a swift
restoration of democracy. Australian Foreign Minister Julie
Bishop said she was "gravely concerned" and warned tourists
to be careful.
"EVERYONE MUST SIT STILL"
In a first round of talks on Wednesday, Prayuth had called on
the two sides to agree on a compromise that would have hinged
around the appointment of an interim prime minister,
political reforms and the timing of an election.
But neither side backed down from their entrenched positions,
"As we cannot find a way to bring the country to peace and
noone will back down I would like to announce that I will
take power. Everyone must sit still," Prayuth told the
meeting, according to one participant who declined to be
Leaders of the ruling Puea Thai Party and the opposition
Democrat Party, the Senate leader and the five-member
Election Commission had joined the talks.
Yingluck was forced to step down as premier by a court two
weeks ago, but her caretaker government, buffeted by six
months of protests against it, had remained nominally in
Thailand's gross domestic product contracted 2.1 percent in
January-March from the previous three months, largely because
of the unrest, adding to fears it is stumbling into
But weary investors have generally taken Thailand's frequent
political upheavals in their stride, and analysts said the
impact on markets in Southeast Asia's second largest economy
might not be too severe.
Thailand's SET index closed before the coup announcement,
ending 0.2 percent higher. The index is up 8 percent this
year. The baht weakened to 32.54 to the dollar after the coup
announcement, from 32.38 earlier.
The anti-government protesters want to rid the country of the
influence of Thaksin, who they say is a corrupt crony
capitalist who commandeered a fragile democracy and used
taxpayers' money to buy votes with populist giveaways.
They wanted a "neutral" interim prime minister to oversee
electoral reforms before any new vote.
The government and its supporters said a general election was
the best way forward and it had proposed polls on Aug. 3, to
be followed by reforms. It would probably win such a vote.