First Posted: 5/23/2014
(AP) After six months of political deadlock, protests and deadly violence, Thailand's military seized power in a coup and scrapped the constitution on Thursday. It was Thailand's second coup in eight years and 12th since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. Here's a summary of events and a guide to understanding what is happening.
HOW IS THE COUP PLAYING OUT?
In one of the first open challenges to the military, hundreds of anti-coup activists held a protest in downtown Bangkok on Friday evening before they were dispersed by troops who detained at least two people.
Most of the country was calm, and there was little military presence on Bangkok's streets. Although life had largely returned to normal during the day, an overnight curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. was still in effect. Restrictions on TV broadcasts and on posting inflammatory comments on social media also remained, and many Thais were reluctant to comment publicly on the coup.
KEY FIGURES SUMMONED
The military on Friday summoned more than 100 top political figures, including former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the entire ousted government. After about 30 minutes, Yingluck left an army compound and was taken to another army location by soldiers, said her aide, Wim Rungwattanachinda. He said it appeared she would not be immediately released.
It was unclear what the military's intentions were beyond the summons, which it said had been issued "to keep peace and order and solve the country's problems."
Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, an outspoken critic of the military's intervention, remained in hiding. He said in a Facebook post that the coup would only worsen the country's political atmosphere. He vowed not to turn himself in, but said he would not resist arrest.
THE WORLD REACTS
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the takeover and warned it would have a negative impact on U.S.-Thai relations. The State Department said it has suspended $3.5 million in military aid and is reviewing a further $7 million in bilateral assistance and other aid.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country looked to Thai authorities "to set out a quick clear timetable for elections to help re-establish the democratic framework of governance.
Australia said it was "gravely concerned" about the situation in Thailand, a major destination for Australian tourists.
The powerful army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who announced the military takeover on television, defended the move as necessary to restore stability amid increasing spasms of violence that together with controversial court rulings had rendered the government powerless. He briefed foreign diplomats Friday about the coup and said the lifespan of the ruling military council would depend on how soon the current political conflict can be eased, Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow said.
He said Prayuth told them a reform council would be established along with an interim government, and that they would lead to an eventual election.
Prayuth, 60, is known for his loyalty to the monarchy, especially to Queen Sirikit, having served in the 21st Infantry Regiment, known as the Queen's Guard. Both Prayuth and his predecessor and mentor, former army chief Gen. Anupong Phaochinda, played key roles in the 2006 coup that toppled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother.
WHAT LED TO THIS?
Street protests started in November against then-Prime Minister Yingluck, and she dissolved the lower house of Parliament in a failed bid to ease the crisis. A court ousted her for nepotism this month but left the ruling party in place. Anti-government protesters wanted to install an unelected prime minister to make unspecified reforms they said would root out corruption and remove the Shinawatra family's extensive influence from politics.
In first declaring martial law on Tuesday, the army said it needed to restore order. Last week, grenades fired at an anti-government protest site in Bangkok left three people dead and more than 20 injured. At least 28 people have died in protest-related violence since November.
Prayuth assumed the role of mediator by summoning key political rivals for their first face-to-face talks since the political turmoil escalated six months ago. Meetings on Wednesday and Thursday among bitter enemies failed to break the deadlock before Prayuth announced the coup.Associated Press