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Thailand military confines key leaders, gives them ‘time to think’

Thai soldiers detain a pro-government protester during a demonstration against the coup in downtown Bangkok on Friday. (Associated Press)
Thai soldiers detain a pro-government protester during a demonstration against the coup in downtown Bangkok on Friday. (Associated Press)

BANGKOK – A spokesman for Thailand’s coup leaders says the army will detain former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Cabinet members and anti-government protest leaders for up to a week to give them “time to think.”

Ousted members of Thailand’s former government surrendered to the new military junta Friday, as soldiers forcefully dispersed hundreds of anti-coup activists who defied a ban on large-scale gatherings to protest the army’s seizure of power.

Deputy army spokesman Col. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said today that Yingluck and dozens of other political figures have had their phones confiscated. He would not reveal their location.

The move appears aimed at preventing any political leaders from contacting supporters to rally them against the coup.

The military seized power on Thursday after two days of peace talks in which neither political faction would agree to step aside. The junta says it acted to prevent more turmoil after months of sometimes violent street protests and deadlock between the elected government and protesters supported by Thailand’s elite establishment.

Troops detained at least two activists during the protest in downtown Bangkok, which descended into scuffles but ended without injury and marked one of the first open challenges to the military since Thursday’s coup.

The junta, though, remained firmly in charge, summoning more than 100 top political figures – the entire ousted government, their associates and a handful of their opponents. It also banned those on its wanted list from leaving the country.

By nightfall, dozens of the VIPs who turned themselves in were still being held.

Most of the country was calm, and there was little military presence on Bangkok’s streets. An overnight curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. was still in effect.

Restrictions on TV broadcasts and on posting inflammatory comments on social media remained in effect, and many Thais were reluctant to comment publicly on the coup.

The U.S. State Department said it has suspended $3.5 million in military aid to Thailand and is reviewing a further $7 million in bilateral assistance and other aid.


 

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