Yingluck Shinawatra

Thai army detains Yingluck, bans 155 key figures from leaving country

Yingluck Shinawatra and 155 key figures ordered to stay in kingdom as military says it will return power to people if calm situation continues

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 May, 2014, 10:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 May, 2014, 10:17pm

Thailand's military government yesterday detained former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and members of her family after summoning her and other ministers for talks a day after the military seized power from her caretaker government.

"We have detained Yingluck, her sister and brother-in-law," a senior military officer said. The two relatives have held top political posts.

Thai military seizes power, leaving uncertain road ahead

"We will do so for not more than week, that would be too long. We just need to organise matters in the country first," said the officer, who declined to say where Yingluck was being held

Dozens of prominent figures from both sides of the political divide, including Yingluck and her successor Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, were ordered to show up.

Military chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha was at the army centre at the same time but there was no confirmation he met them. After about 30 minutes, Yingluck left the facility and was taken to another army location by soldiers, an aide said.

The army said 155 prominent figures, including the ousted government leaders, were banned from leaving the country without permission.

Prayuth also summoned hundreds of civil servants and told them he needed their help. "I want all civil servants to help organise the country," he said.

"If the situation is peaceful, we are ready to return power to the people."

In contrast to the previous coup eight years ago, there was no sign of tanks or significant troop numbers deployed around the capital.

Bangkok was calm and life appeared normal, although the military ordered all schools and universities to stay closed.

But there were some signs of opposition to the takeover.

Small groups of students in Bangkok and Chiang Mai held up signs denouncing the coup and supporting democracy, according to witnesses and pictures posted on social media.

The main indication of military presence was on television, where regular programming was replaced by a static screen showing military crests and the junta's self-declared name: the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council. Patriotic music filled air time, interrupted by occasional announcements from military officials.

Overnight the commercial heart of the city was reduced to a near ghost town, with the occasional tuk-tuk or taxi plying the roads as the curfew descended.

A smattering of bars breached the order, serving beers to tourists, although most visitors were holed up in their hotels.

Yesterday holidaymakers milled along the streets of the tourist hub in their dozens, making the most of Bangkok's daytime attractions after Thursday's curfew curtailed their ability to enjoy the city's famed nightlife.

After months of disruptive political rallies, some Bangkok residents expressed optimism that the coup would cut a path through the political paralysis.

"At first I thought the coup was a bad idea," Vichit Kriyasaun, 27, said. "But now I think it could be good because they may stop the fighting," he said.

For Thanakan Chalaemprasead the most distressing aspects of the coup so far are the loss of his favourite television shows and the early closure of the city's ubiquitous 7-Eleven stores. "There was also nothing on television ... if the army wants us to stay home, they should have at least let us watch something," the 21-year-old mechanic said.

Instead, televisions and radios blared patriotic music punctuated by official statements from a stern-faced military spokesman.

Countries including the United States, Japan and Australia expressed concern and disappointment over the coup.

Thai airports will operate as normal, Airports of Thailand said. The Hong Kong Travel Industry Council said it would cancel all tours to Thailand from today until May 30 following a red travel alert issued by the government.

A total of 70 groups with 1,300 people would be affected, said Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Reuters