Thailand's coup leaders will receive monarchy's blessing

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 12:35pm

Thailand’s coup leader will receive royal appointment today as head of the military junta that overthrew the civilian government, the army said.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power four days earlier and has assumed extensive powers over the Southeast Asian nation of 67 million, will formally be appointed in a ceremony in Bangkok.

The monarchy headed by the revered but ailing king, 86-year-old Bhumibol Adulyadej, commands great respect among many Thais.

His blessing has traditionally been a key step in legitimising the recurring military takeovers that have taken place in Thailand, which has now seen 19 actual or attempted coups since 1932.

“The ceremony to receive the royal command appointing General Prayuth as leader of the National Council of Peace and Order will begin at around 10am [local time] inside the army headquarters,” said army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong.

She indicated the king, who is yet to make a public statement on the coup, would not be present for the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Thailand's ruling junta warned protesters it would not tolerate any further rallies against its coup after tense stand-offs yesterday between soldiers and angry crowds in Bangkok.

Dozens of demonstrators faced off against lines of armed soldiers before and after more than 1,000 protesters marched through the city, the largest show of dissent since the army seized power on Thursday.

Watch: Angry Thai anti-coup protests despite junta warnings

The military has detained former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra along with scores of ousted government leaders, political figures, critics and academics in a sweeping round-up since the coup, which has drawn sharp international criticism.

The army said demonstrators would be held for one or two days, but they could be jailed for up to two years if they kept taking to the streets.

"We will give them a last chance today, but if they continue to rally we will use measures to deal with them," Lieutenant General Apirat Kongsompong said.

Protests began outside a Bangkok shopping mall in the Chit Lom area. Minor scuffles broke out and at least two protesters were taken away by the troops.

Demonstrators then made their way across the city to the Victory Monument cheered by onlookers.

"I am not afraid of them because the more we are afraid of them, the more they will stamp on us," protester Kongjit Paennoy, 50, said. "We want an election – to choose our own boss."

Video: Thai military seizes power, leaving uncertain road ahead

The junta announced on Saturday that it had disbanded the Senate and placed all law-making authority in the hands of the army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Witnesses also reported demonstrations overnight in parts of the Shinawatra family's northern power base.

The coup followed seven months of anti-government protests that sought to eradicate the influence of Yingluck's divisive brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted from power by royalist generals in 2006.

The tycoon-turned-politician yesterday posted his first public messages on Twitter since the military takeover, saying he was "saddened" by the coup and urging the military rulers to "abide by international law and respect human rights".