23 May 2014

Ousted Thai PM meets with coup leaders

8:16 pm on 23 May 2014

Thailand's ousted leader Yingluck Shinawatra has appeared at a military facility in Bangkok on Friday, a day after the army took power in a coup.

The military has seized power, deposing the elected government, suspending the constitution and imposing a night-time curfew across the country, saying order was needed after months of turmoil. It has banned 155 prominent political figures from leaving the country without permission. Some pro-government MPs have gone into hiding.

Soldiers cleared the pro-government 'Red Shirts' rally site and stood guard at the main entrance.

Soldiers cleared the pro-government 'Red Shirts' rally site and stood guard at the main entrance. Photo: AFP

Yingluck Shinawatra.

Yingluck Shinawatra. Photo: AFP

Ms Yingluck was one of more than 100 political figures summoned by the army. She appeared to be going to another military location afterwards, but it was not clear if she is being detained, the BBC reports.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha made the announcement in a televised address on Thursday after he held a meeting with all rival factions aimed at finding a solution to six months of anti-government protests.

The military declared a 10pm to 5am curfew 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, Reuters reports.

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 pro-Thaksin government. Some of the other meeting participants were detained.

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 protesters later left peacefully.

The army also ordered television and radio stations to halt normal programmes and broadcast its material, and banned gatherings of more than five people. Earlier, it warned people not to spread inflammatory material on social media.

The United States and the United Nations and others expressed deep concern over the developments.

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".

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was seriously concerned over the military's action and has called for a rapid return to a democratic civilian government.

'Red Shirt' activists leave the protest rally venue on an army truck.

'Red Shirt' activists leave the protest rally venue on an army truck. Photo: AFP

Deadly protests

On Tuesday, the military had declared martial law, 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.

The latest unrest began in Bangkok late last year, when then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the lower house of parliament. This month, a court ordered Ms Yingluck's removal for alleged abuse of power.

Thailand has faced a power struggle since Ms Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by the military as prime minister in 2006.

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 Mr Thaksin was deposed in 2006.

MFAT advises caution

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said 1139 New Zealanders are registered in Thailand.

The ministry advised them to follow the rules of the local authorities and avoid protests and large public gatherings, but said the travel advice for Thailand had not changed.

A New Zealander in north east Thailand, Loren Corbett, said there is confusion about what is going on and people have turned to Twitter because of the lack of information.