After coup, Thai army summons Shinawatra family
By JOCELYN GECKER and THANYARAT DOKSONE, AP
May 23, 2014, 2:36 pm TWN
BANGKOK - Thailand's ruling military on Friday summoned the entire ousted government and members of the politically influential family at the heart of the country's long-running conflict, a day after it seized control of this volatile Southeast Asian nation in a non-violent coup.
There was hardly any visible military presence on Bangkok's streets, which were less crowded than usual but still filled with vendors and people heading to work after a 10 p.m. - 5 a.m. curfew. There were no reports of overnight violence.
Countries including the United States, Japan and Australia expressed concern and disappointment over the coup, with the U.S. saying there was "no justification" for the takeover.
It was unclear why more than 100 people -- including the ousted prime minister and several members of the influential Shinawatra family -- were ordered to report to the military, which said it was summoning the high-profile figures "to keep peace and order and solve the country's problems."
It was also unclear how many of them would turn up at the designated army compound in Bangkok, amid confusion over the military's intentions.
Thursday's coup was launched while the military hosted a meeting of political rivals at the same compound for what was billed as a second round of talks on how to resolve the country's political deadlock. After two hours of inconclusive talks, armed soldiers detained the participants, including four Cabinet ministers, and army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha appeared on national television to announce the takeover.
Without firing a shot, the military staged its second coup in eight years, suspending the constitution and the Cabinet, banning gatherings of more than five people and embarking on a risky bid to end half a year of political upheaval that many fear will only deepen the nation's crisis.
For seven months, anti-government protesters have been calling for the removal of the Shinawatra family and its alleged corrupting influence from Thai politics. Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was sacked by the Constitutional Court earlier this month for nepotism, was among those summoned Friday, along with acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan.
In response to rumors that Niwattumrong was being protected at the U.S. Embassy compound, American Ambassador Kristie Kenney tweeted: "Absolutely false. Do not believe rumors."
The country's junta leader, Prayuth, said during his announcement Thursday that he had to act to restore stability and "quickly bring the situation back to normal" amid increasing spasms of violence that together with controversial court rulings had rendered the government powerless and the country profoundly divided.
But troubles for Thailand, a regional economic hub whose idyllic white-sand beaches and elephant-filled jungles draw millions of tourists a year, could be just beginning.
"We're likely to see dark days ahead," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, referring to the possibility of violent resistance from the ousted government's supporters.
The army, which imposed martial law in a surprise move Tuesday that many sensed was a prelude to taking full power, imposed a nationwide curfew Thursday that began at 10 p.m. -- a clear sign it was concerned about potential unrest.
But there was no sign of immediate trouble, and by daybreak Friday, there was hardly any visible military presence on Bangkok's streets. In the city center, the few military vehicles that had diverted cars on some major roads overnight were gone.