GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: THAILAND'S COUP D'ETAT
UPDATE: 5/23/14 4:40 PM ET
This live blog is now closed.
UPDATE: 5/23/14 2:15 PM ET
US reportedly suspending aid
Agence France-Presse — The United States said Friday it has suspended $3.5 million for Thailand, about one-third of its aid to the ally, after the military seized power.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the United States was also reviewing the rest of US aid to Thailand — which totaled some $10.5 million in 2013 — to look for further cuts.
"We have already suspended approximately $3.5 million" in funding and training for the Thai military, Harf told reporters.
"We are reviewing all programs to determine other assistance which we may suspend," she said.
Harf said that the United States was looking through its allocated funding for international bodies including the 10-nation ASEAN bloc to identify money directed to Thailand.
Under domestic law, the United States is obligated to suspend assistance to foreign militaries that overthrow elected governments.
Secretary of State John Kerry earlier strongly condemned Thursday's coup, saying there was "no justification" and that the move would have "negative implications" for relations.
Kerry urged the restoration of a civilian government, respect for press freedom and early elections.
Thailand is the oldest US ally in Asia and provided critical support in the Vietnam and Korean wars.
UPDATE: 5/23/14 12:15 PM ET
Wealthy Thais question: What took the army so long?
Reuters — Many of the wealthy Thais who come to investment manager Charles Blocker have a question for the generals who seized control of the country in a military coup this week: What took you so long?
After months of turmoil and government paralysis, the rich individuals and companies that Blocker works with welcome anything that might get the machinery of state turning again.
"It's business as usual," said Blocker, head of boutique investment firm Invision Capital Partners in Thailand, where the company manages some $140 million of cash in from individual investors and family offices.
"They are continuing to re-invest in their businesses within Thailand, whether that is in real estate, the food business, semiconductors, or tier 1 or tier 2 auto-parts supplies," he added.
"This coup was inevitable and a lot of people are saying I wish they could have done it in February. Why drag it on for four more months?"
"Military rule could paradoxically offer a limited stability, allowing civilian leaders time to find peaceful reconciliation and reducing the threat of violent disruptions to economic activity," wrote Citi strategist Siddharth Mathur.
"It's a soft coup, a coup with a condom," said Blocker. "It's a coup that's trying to help the young adults to install a prime minister."
UPDATE: 5/23/14 9:50 AM ET
Yingluck Shinawatra and her family detained
Reuters — Thailand's military government detained former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and members of her family after summoning her and other ministers for talks on Friday, a after the military seized power from her caretaker government.
"We have detained Yingluck, her sister and brother-in-law," a senior military officer told Reuters. The two relatives have held top political posts.
"We will do so for not more than week, that would be too long. We just need to organize matters in the country first," said the officer, who declined to say where Yingluck was being held.
Shinawatra arrived at an army facility in Bangkok after she was summoned by the military, a Reuters reporter said.
Yingluck was forced to step down on May 7 after the Constitutional Court found her guilty of abuse of power. A member of her cabinet took over but the army mounted a coup on Thursday to remove the government.
UPDATE: 5/23/14 6:40 AM ET
155 under country arrest after coup
Reuters — Thailand's military government has banned 155 people including politicians and activists from leaving the country after staging a coup following months of political turmoil, according to a statement read on television on Friday.
It said the decision was taken "in order to maintain peace and resolve the conflict".
After the coup, soldiers dispersed rival groups of protesters who had set up camp in and around the capital, Bangkok.
UPDATE: 5/22/14 4:40 PM ET
With this, we bid you good evening.
UPDATE: 5/22/14 4:10 PM ET
Meet Thailand's army chief, and now de facto leader
The army announced that General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand's army chief, would act as prime minister until one was appointed.
He is also the leader of the junta that has taken over the government, the "National Peace and Order Maintenance Council." Agence France-Presse pointed out that most of the council's members are leaders of the Thai armed forces and police.
"Prayuth is not just anti-Thaksin, not just anti-Red Shirt, but also pro-monarchy. Not only that, he is the right hand man of the queen," Pavin Chachavalpongpun of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Japan's Kyoto University told AFP.
UPDATE: 5/22/14 3:30 PM ET
'Is there a real coup going on? Is this a real coup?'
This Associated Press clip shows how it looked when the coup began: Troops surrounding a building where rival factions met for crisis talks, announcements on TV, flustered officials:
And The Wall Street Journal's Newley Purnell captured a snippet from the Thai army chief's announcement of the coup:
UPDATE: 5/22/14 3:15 PM ET
How rice contributed to Thailand's political turmoil
Thailand's recent political upheaval — from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's ouster, to the imposition of martial law, to the coup — has been a long time coming.
One seemingly harmless thing that contributed to the turmoil? Rice.
As Senior Correspondent Patrick Winn wrote in February:
“It’s unwise to anger people of the fields,” said Phanom Jaichum, a 63-year-old rice farmer from Kanchanaburi, a Thai province on Myanmar’s border. “There are a lot of us. Enough to determine who gets elected and who doesn’t. They shouldn’t make us upset.”
Yingluck’s party, Pheu Thai, has accidentally done just that.
Though most Thai politicians wouldn’t last a week in the paddy, they aggressively court rice farmers. Photo-ops with field-wizened grannies look great on campaign signs. As in America, subsidy policies doling out money to farmers secure loyalty in the voting booth, pump cash into the heartland and project an air of benevolence.
The government initially hoped buying and hoarding all that rice would shrink the planet’s reserves and send the global rice price soaring. According to the plan, once the price spiked, the state would sell off its rice stockpile to a desperate world market and cover its exorbitant payouts to farmers.
But the price never spiked.
UPDATE: 5/22/14 2:40 PM ET
Be careful what you tweet
Thailand's coup has been hardest felt on media so far, with TV stations that normally broadcast BBC or CNN showing programs about the Thai royals.
But social media could be next. The junta that has taken over warned that it could block whole platforms if Thai users posted material criticizing the military coup or "provoking violence."
"If we find any to be in violation, we will suspend the service immediately and will summon those responsible for prosecution," said a statement that was read on national TV, according to Agence France-Presse.
TIME pulled together this piece on how the coup unfolded on Twitter (mostly among expats and journalists living in Thailand):
UPDATE: 5/22/14 1:10 PM ET
UK, UN express concern over coup, US to review its military ties
Reuters — The United States is reviewing its military and other aid to Thailand following its "military coup," US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.
"There is no justification for this military coup," Kerry said in a statement. "This act will have negative implications for the US-Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military. We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with US law."
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "seriously concerned" by the military takeover.
In a statement, Ban appealed "for a prompt return to constitutional, civilian, democratic rule and an all-inclusive dialogue that will pave the way for long-term peace and prosperity in Thailand."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also urged Thailand to restore a democratically-elected civilian government.
"I am extremely concerned by today's coup," Hague said in a statement. "We look therefore to the authorities to set out a quick clear timetable for elections to help re-establish the democratic framework of governance."
UPDATE: 5/22/14 12:55 PM ET
Nevermind the coup, people are still posing for photos in Thailand
Does this even need a caption?
For more "martial law" selfies, click here.
UPDATE: 5/22/14 12:35 PM ET
Will the Red Shirts resist?
GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Patrick Winn, normally based in Bangkok, Thailand, is currently in Washington, D.C.
In March, he wrote about how Thailand's pro-government "Red Shirts" are spoiling for a fight — or at least, getting prepared for one. The Red Shirts, primarily rural and working classes, support the Shinawatras (both recently deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Thaksin who was ousted in a 2006 coup).
Mahawon Kawang, an influential member of the Red Shirts, told Winn he wanted the army to intervene "as soon as possible."
Why? Because he thought the next coup would "galvanize the masses into an armed resistance force — one that will teach Thailand’s aristocrats, generals and judges that they can no longer engineer purges of elected governments."
"If a civil war breaks out, Thailand will change forever," Mahawon said in March. "Let's just get it over with."
Today, the Red Shirts' leader asked supporters, "Will you fight or will you not fight?"
According to Reuters, Jatuporn Prompan said, "We will not go anywhere. Don't panic because we expected this. Whatever happens will happen."
In March, Winn reported that talk of armed resistance among Red Shirts had already gone beyond rhetoric. "Elements of the Red Shirts are now openly preparing for conflict — amassing recruits, securing access to weapons, readying women to run supply chains and assessing the weapons savvy of its men," he wrote.
Read more on the Red Shirts' plans for just this scenario.
And more from Winn following today's coup:
UPDATE: 5/22/14 11:40 AM ET
Nth time's the charm?
When martial law was declared on Tuesday, the Thai army insisted that the move was purely to maintain order and encourage political dialogue.
Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters, "We ask all sides to come and talk to find a way out for the country."
It seems that after two days of talks leading nowhere, Prayuth got tired of waiting.
A participant said Prayuth told the meeting of leaders from both sides, "As we cannot find a way to bring the country to peace and everyone won't back down I would like to announce that I will take power. Everyone must sit still."
It's hardly the first time... since Thailand overthrew its absolute monarch in 1932, it has seen nearly 30 coup attempts, according to The Washington Post.
UPDATE: 5/22/14 10:40 AM ET
This is what a media takeover looks like
The clampdown on the media was splashed across Thailand's TV screens:
UPDATE: 5/22/14 8:40 AM ET
The Thai army has declared a coup d'etat
Reuters — Thailand's army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized control of the government in a coup on Thursday, two days after he declared martial law, saying the army had to restore order and push through reforms.
Prayuth made the announcement in a television broadcast after a meeting to which he had summoned the rival factions in Thailand's drawn-out political conflict, apparently with the aim of finding a solution to six months of anti-government protests.
"In order for the situation to return to normal quickly and for society to love and be at peace again ... and to reform the political, economic and social structure, the military needs to take control of power," Prayuth said.
The military later declared a curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.
Thailand is locked in a protracted power struggle between supporters of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and opponents backed by the royalist establishment that has polarized the country and battered its economy.
The Thai army has 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 Thaksin was deposed in 2006.
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.
More from GlobalPost: Thailand’s democracy is being dismembered, limb by limb
Some of the other meeting participants were being held back in the venue afterwards, said a Reuters reporter waiting outside.
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, a spokesman for the group said.
The military detained at least one leader of the activists, said the spokesman, Thanawut Wichaidit.
A Reuters witness later said the protesters were leaving peacefully. Earlier, their leader, Jatuporn Prompan, said they would continue their rally despite the coup and the order to disperse.
The army had declared martial law on Tuesday, saying the move was necessary to prevent violence, but it rejected accusations its actions amounted to a coup.
Call for compromise
In a first round of talks on Wednesday, Prayuth had called on the two sides to agree on a compromise that would have hinged around the appointment of an interim prime minister, political reforms and the timing of an election.
Wednesday's talks ended inconclusively with neither side backing down from their entrenched positions, participants said.
The army has also clamped down on the media, including partisan television channels, and warned people not to spread inflammatory material on social media.
Leaders of the ruling Puea Thai Party and the opposition Democrat Party, the Senate leader and the five-member Election Commission had joined the second round of talks on Thursday.
Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, who did not attend, told reporters before the talks that his government could not resign as its enemies were demanding as that would contravene the constitution.
"The government wants the problem solved in a democratic way which includes a government that comes from elections," he said.
Government officials were not available for comment after the coup announcement.
Former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin has lived in self-exile since 2008 to avoid a jail term for graft, but still commands the loyalty of legions of rural and urban poor and exerts a huge influence over politics, most recently through a government run by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Yingluck was forced to step down as premier by a court two weeks ago, but her caretaker government, buffeted by six months of protests against it, had remained nominally in power despite the declaration of martial law this week.
Thailand's gross domestic product contracted 2.1 percent in January-March from the previous three months, largely because of the unrest, adding to fears it is stumbling into recession.
The protesters want to rid the country of the influence of Thaksin, who they say is a corrupt crony capitalist who commandeered Thailand's fragile democracy and used taxpayers' money to buy votes with populist giveaways.
They wanted a "neutral" interim prime minister to oversee electoral reforms before any new vote.
The government and its supporters said a general election that it would likely win was the best way forward and it had proposed polls on August 3, to be followed by reforms.
Earlier on Thursday, anti-government protest leader Suthep, a former deputy prime minister in a government run by the pro-establishment Democrat Party, told his supporters victory was imminent.
Twenty-eight people have been killed and 700 injured since this latest chapter in the power struggle between Thaksin and the royalist elite flared up late last year.
(Additional reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Alan Raybould and Alex Richardson)
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