Thailand’s army chief announced a military takeover of the government Thursday, saying the coup was necessary to restore stability and order after six months of political deadlock and turmoil.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a statement broadcast on national television that the commission which imposed martial law Tuesday would now take control of the country’s administration.
“It is necessary for the Peace and Order Maintaining Command – which includes army, navy, armed forces and police – to take control of governing the country,” Prayuth said, flanked by the heads of the armed forces.
The pivotal development came after Prayuthdeclared martial law on Tuesday in what he called a bid to resolve the crisis and a day later summoned the country’s rival political leaders for face-to-face talks. Two days of talks failed to break the impasse.
Shortly before the announcement was made, armed soldiers in military vehicles surrounded the military facility where the politicians were meeting, apparently to block those inside from leaving.
Many of the country’s highest-profile figures were summoned for the meeting. They included the acting prime minister – who sent four Cabinet ministers in his place – and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, as well as Suthep’s rival from the pro-government Red Shirt group, Jatuporn Prompan. Reporters at the meeting said Suthep and Jatuporn were escorted out of the meeting by soldiers.
A government official, Paradorn Pattanathabutr, contacted shortly after the announcement said that the four ministers attending the meeting were still being held by the military.
“The rest of us who are outside are still fine and in the safe places. However, the situation is very worrying. We have to monitor it closely and don’t know what else can happen,” he said.
Thailand has been gripped by bouts of political instability for more than seven years.