Thailand's army chief announced on Thursday that the military is seizing control of the government, and suspending the constitution just two days after the military insisted that declaring martial law was not indicative of a coup.
Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha announced the maneuver to the public in a televised address, saying "In order for the country to return to normal quickly, the National Peace Keeping Committee comprised of the army, the Thai armed forces, the Royal Air Force and the police need to seize power as of May 22 at 4.30 p.m.," adding "All Thais must remain calm and government officials must work as normal." The Thai army has already announced a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m..
Bangkok has seen violent protests over the past seven months, and the coup ostensibly is an effort to provide stability to the restive nation after the military was unable to broker negotiations between rival political groups. The AP reports that it seems to have worked, for now, as most of the protesters have dispersed.
Agence France-Presse reports that some counter-protesters had been detained by the army.
Rival protest leaders at the talks — held at a heavily guarded military facility in the capital — were seen being taken away by the army although it was unclear whether they had been formally detained. The long-running political crisis broadly pits a Bangkok-based royalist elite and its backers against the billionaire family of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of the now-deposed prime minister, had been removed from office in a previous coup that took place eight years ago. But the family has maintained power, and protests started up late last year when Yingluck Shinawatra, prime minister at the time, dismantled the lower house of parliament. She was ordered removed from office by a Thai court earlier this month for allegedly abusing power, the BBC reports.
This is the country's 12th coup since 1932.