Saturday 25 October 2014

Ex-Thai PM arrested as troops confront protests

Dean Nelson in Delhi

Published 24/05/2014 | 02:30

A soldier walks past Buddhist monks begging for alms outside a temple in Bangkok
A soldier walks past Buddhist monks begging for alms outside a temple in Bangkok
Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha listens to questions from the media during a news conference at the Army Club after the army declared martial law nationwide to restore order
Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha listens to questions from the media during a news conference at the Army Club after the army declared martial law nationwide to restore order
People hold candles and placards during a protest against military rule in central Bangkok
People hold candles and placards during a protest against military rule in central Bangkok

Thailand's generals have arrested the former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and rounded up former cabinet ministers and politicians as troops consolidated their coup amid scattered protests and international outrage.

Ms Yingluck was among more than 100 politicians taken into custody, including all the main figures in her ousted government and members of her family, some of whom were later released.

Chaturon Chaisang, the education minister, was in hiding but issued a statement criticising the coup, which he said would worsen the political atmosphere. News of Ms Yingluck's arrest emerged as troops in the capital, Bangkok, confronted sporadic demonstrations against Gen Prayuth Chanocha's seizure of power on Thursday.

Television and radio networks were shut down for several hours and replaced with martial music. Military officials announced a curfew for a second night from 10pm.

But despite earlier warnings that the Red Shirt protest group which had supported Ms Shinawatra's government had threatened to oppose any military takeover, the atmosphere remained calm.

In Bangkok's Khao San Road tourist quarter backpackers posed for photographs with armed soldiers, while stores were packed as residents and visitors stocked up on alcohol before the curfew. There were reports last night of the curfew being ignored in some resorts.

General Prayuth, left, seized power during an army-hosted summit of the main political parties aimed at clearing the way for elections.

He told the leaders, including several cabinet ministers, that he was taking power when they failed to reach an agreement after two hours of talks.

He said political reforms must be enacted before the country could go to the polls.

"If the situation is peaceful, we are ready to return power to the people," the general added.

Condemned

Diplomats said representatives of Western states, meeting in Bangkok to coordinate responses, had unanimously condemned the coup. One said the takeover, the 12th coup since 1932, had little support.

William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, said he was "extremely concerned". John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said there was "no justification for this military coup".

The coup is linked to the rift between Thailand's royalist armed forces and supporters of the former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted by soldiers in 2006, and his sister Yingluck, forced to stand down as prime minister earlier this month over accusations of nepotism. The Shinawatras remain popular in Thailand and have won all elections in the country since 2001.

Travel writer Richard Barrow said he was concerned tourists were not taking the coup seriously. "I don't think it's a good idea for tourists to pose with soldiers," he said. "It's not a game. Those guns are loaded." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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