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June 23, 2017

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Thai military junta disbands Senate

BANGKOK -- Thailand's military junta said on Saturday it had disbanded the Senate and placed all law-making authority in the army chief's hands, dramatically tightening its grip after a coup that has sparked Bangkok protests and drawn international condemnation.

The regime also confirmed it had detained former premier Yingluck Shinawatra and scores of other ousted government leaders and would hold them for up to a week as it corralled potential opponents to its takeover.

"The Senate is dismissed. Responsibility for any laws needing the approval of the parliament or Senate will instead be assumed by the leader of the (junta)," said an army bulletin on national television.

As sporadic protests flared in Bangkok, the military also said the seizure of the government by General Prayuth Chan-Ocha had been "acknowledged" by the country's revered king, while stopping short of calling it a royal endorsement.

Briefing the media for the first time since Prayuth deposed the civilian government Thursday after months of escalating political turmoil, the military declined to specify the whereabouts of Yingluck and scores of other prominent detainees, but said they were in no danger.

"They will be detained for up to one week depending on how directly they were involved (in Thailand's political tumult)," army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree told reporters.

In comments to AFP, Lieutenant General Thirachai Nakwanich, head of the military command for central Thailand including Bangkok, added: "(Yingluck) is under detention, and she is fine."

Prayuth had submitted a letter to King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the takeover, said a separate military announcement read out later on national television.

The 86-year-old king commands great respect among his subjects, and his blessing is traditionally sought to legitimize Thailand's recurring military takeovers.

The palace "replied that his Majesty has acknowledged (the letter)," the brief bulletin said.

The palace itself has not issued a statement on the coup yet.

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