Thai Military Says It’s Taken Over the Country in a Coup

BANGKOK, Thailand — The Thai military has taken control of the government in a coup, the country’s military chief announced in a national address Thursday.

The move came after rival factions were unable to come up with a suitable agreement to govern, the military chief said.

Hours earlier, members of the military and opposition parties met for a second day to try to find a solution to the crisis in Thailand, which has been under martial law since Tuesday.

Fruitless talks

During the meetings this week, Thai election officials said the country’s caretaker prime minister and his Cabinet should resign and a new interim government should be named ahead of elections to be held in six to nine months.

thailand-military

Thai soldiers patrol after army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha met with anti-government and pro-government leaders at the Army Club in Bangkok on Thursday, May 22, 2014. Thailand’s army chief announced in an address to the nation on Thursday that the armed forces were seizing power after months of deadly political turmoil. (Credit: Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images)

But interim Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan said there’s no chance that the caretaker government will resign.

“This can’t be done because it is illegal,” a statement from Niwatthamrong’s office said. “To find (a) solution, (it) must be done accordingly to laws and under the constitution.”

Among those invited to the meetings were the chairman of the election commission, the acting senate house speaker, the leader of the governing Pheu Thai party, the leader of the opposition Democrat Party, the leader of the anti-government protesters and the leader of the pro-government “red shirts.”

Deep-seated tensions in Thailand in recent months have caused deadly clashes, paralyzed parts of the capital and brought down Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Sudden martial law

The military, which has a long history of interfering in Thai politics, stepped into the fray Tuesday with its sudden declaration of martial law — without giving any warning to the acting prime minister.

“They took this action unilaterally,” an aide to the prime minister told CNN, describing the situation earlier this week as “half a coup d’etat.”

Human rights activists warned that the imposition of martial law is a major step away from democracy and lacks safeguards. Human Rights Watch said it “threatens the human rights of all Thais.”

The law includes restrictions on where protesters can gather, what TV and radio broadcasters can air and social media posts.

The interim prime minister said he is glad the army chief is trying to find an end to the crisis.

The government wants a solution “under democratic means,” his statement said, “including to find the new elected government the soonest to solve the problems for the people of Thailand.”

How the chaos unfolded

Thailand has been hit by bouts of political unrest over the past decade.

The current wave was triggered in November by Yingluck’s botched attempt to pass an amnesty bill that would have allowed the return of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, another former prime minister who lives in exile. Thaksin was deposed by a military coup in 2006.

Groups opposed to the government seized on the amnesty bill furor and began large-scale protests in central areas of Bangkok.

In an attempt to defuse tensions, Yingluck called an early election. But the Democrat Party boycotted the February election, and Yingluck’s opponents blocked voting in enough districts to prevent a valid outcome.

The leaders of the anti-government protesters say elections — which the Shinawatra family’s populist Pheu Thai party is likely to win — aren’t the way to resolve the crisis. They say they want the establishment of an unelected “people’s council” that would oversee political changes.

Yingluck, who first took office in 2011, stayed on after the disrupted election as a caretaker prime minister. But the Constitutional Court forced her from office two weeks ago, finding her guilty of violating the constitution over the appointments of top security officials.

Yingluck has denied breaking the law.

CNN’s Jethro Mullen and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.


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