News / Asia

    Ousted Thai Prime Minister 'Detained' by Coup Leaders; US Suspends Aid

    Thai Army Chief Declares Himself PM As Former Leaders Submiti
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    Steve Herman
    May 23, 2014 4:52 PM
    A day after launching a coup, Thailand’s military on Friday summoned key politicians to army offices, including the previous caretaker prime minister and former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, meanwhile declared himself the acting prime minister. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
    Thai Army Chief Declares Himself PM As Former Leaders Submit
    Steve HermanRon Corben
    Ousted Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and dozens of other political figures appear to have been detained after arriving for meetings with military leaders who took power in a coup this week.

    After being summoned by the army, Yingluck and others arrived Friday at a military installation in Bangkok. Military officials are quoted as confirming that Yingluck is now in custody.  

    Thai media reports say her aides were bringing her personal effects to a military base outside Bangkok. It is not clear if the other politicians in custody have been taken to the same camp.

    U.S. suspends military aid

    Meanwhile, the United States has suspended $3.5 million in military aid to Thailand, and says it is reviewing another $7 million in assistance for more cuts.

    Friday's announcement came just hours after the Thai military took the country's ousted prime minister into custody, in an apparent move to solidify its grip on power.

    The U.S. State Department also warned U.S. citizens against non-essential travel to the country.

    The whereabouts of Yingluck and dozens of other political figures remained unclear early Saturday -- nearly two days after the Thai army announced its military coup.

    The military already had banned Yingluck and more than 150 other political figures from leaving Thailand without permission.

    It is not clear if the other politicians in custody are in the same camp. The country's caretaker prime minister, Niwattumrong Boosongpaisan, was among those summoned by military authorities. Until the bloodless coup, he had been in charge of the kingdom on an acting basis, after a court ordered Yingluck to step down earlier this month on charges of nepotism.

    Broadcasters in Thailand began resuming normal operations late Friday.

    Clampdown

    Prayuth, the self-declared acting prime minister and ardent monarchist, was able to intimidate his two previous civilian predecessors into reporting to an army facility under threat of arrest if they disobeyed. A total of 155 people have been told not to leave the country.
     
    The junta boss on Friday also summoned civil servants and invited the diplomatic corps and foreign military attaches for meetings to explain the new realities on the ground in the kingdom.
     

    US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney speaks with VOA's Steve Herman in Bangkok, May 23, 2014.US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney speaks with VOA's Steve Herman in Bangkok, May 23, 2014.
    x
    US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney speaks with VOA's Steve Herman in Bangkok, May 23, 2014.
    US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney speaks with VOA's Steve Herman in Bangkok, May 23, 2014.
    As was apparently the case with most other heads of missions, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney did not accept the invitation. In a VOA interview, she said that, despite the imposition of martial law on Tuesday, the coup announcement two days later came “as a bit of a surprise” and it will hurt the relationship between Bangkok and Washington.
     
    “We have a longstanding relationship,” Kenney said. “But a coup in Thailand will have a negative implication. There'll be a high-level review in Washington by the United States government of our assistance and our engagements with Thailand, especially the Thai military. So that'll be looked at very carefully.”
     
    Major Political Developments in Thailand:

    2006:
    Army overthrows Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

    2007: The pro-Thaksin People Power Party wins elections

    2008: Anti-Thaksin protesters, known as Yellow Shirts, stage months of demonstrations and briefly paralyze airports. Abhisit Vejjajiva becomes prime minister.

    2010: Massive pro-Thaksin "red shirt" protests are held in Bangkok, dozens are killed

    2011: Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin, elected prime minister 2013: Anti-government protesters hold massive demonstrations, Yingluck calls new elections

    2014: Protesters camp in Bangkok, Yingluck government is removed, army declares martial law then seizes power in a May coup
    Throughout most of Friday, Thai TV channels continued to carry only the army station’s programming, which was mostly patriotic music interspersed with pronouncements from the new National Peace and Order Maintaining Council. Some channels returned to regular broadcasts in the evening.
     
    Despite the coup, Thailand’s 12th in eight decades, there was little significant troop presence on the streets of the capital.
     
    A small but significant demonstration, organized by university students, defied the military order of no public gatherings by more than five people. They vented their anger at soldiers and denounced the coup.
     
    The most serious immediate impact from the coup is likely to be on Thailand’s lucrative tourism industry.
     
    On the resort island of Phuket, businessman Sanga Ruangwattanakul said the coup has worsened an already bad year following months of political turmoil.
     
    "The big picture: We have had a lot of cancellations from this year,” he said, and going forward “all the online bookings have been cancelled."
     
    The country, now under a seven-hour nightly curfew, has no idea how long military rule and its various restrictions will continue. After the last coup in 2006, elections were not held for another 15 months.
     
    • Soldiers take up position at the Democracy monument after the coup was declared in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters waiting at the Royal Plaza for transportation home stand behind a soldier after the coup was declared in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main encampment after the coup was declared in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
    • Thai journalists and foreign press watch the TV broadcast announcement of the coup by the Thai Armed Forces chiefs, at the press center of the Army Club, in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters raise their fists as they sing the national anthem, in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
    • Thai soldiers block a motorcade of an attendant at the Army Club shortly after the army staged a coup, May 22, 2014, in Bangkok, Thailand.
    • An armed soldier takes a position behind a military vehicle in the compound of the Army Club shortly after the military staged a coup, in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
    • Thai soldiers guard an area where anti-government protesters come to rally, in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
    • Barefoot Buddhist monks walk past a checkpoint near a pro-government "red shirt" supporter encampment in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 22, 2014.

    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Ian from: Dallas, TX USA
    May 25, 2014 12:17 PM
    It is pretty obvious the animosity against the democratically elected civilian government of Yingluck Shinawatra by posters here from Thailand is because only the "elite" in Thailand have internet access. The royalist kangaroo Constitutional Court that decided she did not have the authority to appoint her own National Security Chief is outrageous. Can you imagine any stable government whose leader has no voice in determining police or security posts surrounding her?
    When government is controlled solely by businesses and corporations, that is the definition of fascism. It is sad to see Thailand move further away from being a free liberal democracy.

    by: Long Bunna from: cambodia
    May 24, 2014 11:32 AM
    Why you all did everything disturb to coverment elect by countryside made.

    by: Nick from: Miami
    May 24, 2014 8:17 AM
    I don't care what USA said about this isue. I belivef on Thai justys is better than USA they go to the point with evidences. Here in USA even with evidences the lawyer change the Law.
    God Bless Thai People.

    by: khuma from: islamabad
    May 24, 2014 12:22 AM
    Martial law is the only remedy to get rid of corrupt poltians who grab the national wealth with two hands without having any relization for their poor voters who elect them in hope better future.

    by: ZD from: Bangkok
    May 23, 2014 9:31 PM
    It is interesting that the US ambassador said it came as a surprise. Here in Thailand everyone was asking when not if.

    Further more the US should not be hypocritical, we fight to eradicate corrupt governments in the world and we want democratic governments. What if an elected government won by corruption and does everything to circumvent the law? That is what happened in Thailand and after no one could come to a reasonable common ground solution the only reasonable solution was for the military to be the adult and bring things to a real democracy.

    Instead of complaining we should offer help and assistance to bring a corruption free democracy to Thailand.
    In Response

    by: Human from: Earth
    May 24, 2014 12:22 AM
    You can't demand charity
    In Response

    by: jim from: new zealand
    May 23, 2014 11:13 PM
    And so the General will now pay the rice farmers, who did they say was buying support.

    People who say military coup and democracy in the same sentence need to go back to school.

    by: Mark Causey from: Los Angeles
    May 23, 2014 1:09 PM
    Having looked at many pictures of Yingluck Shinawatra I have decided that the U.S. should start electing their leaders based on looks rather than perceived abilities. In the past 14 years we have had fools for leaders (Bush and Obama) so a new paradigm seems to be in order. According to the World Bank, "Thailand has been one of the great development success stories, with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction..." That is more than can be said about the U.S. where the poverty rate has been steadily increasing, and growth has stagnated.
    In Response

    by: zd from: Bangkok
    May 23, 2014 11:55 PM
    J Smith,
    I have to say that the fat, satellite watching poor in the US are the ones I pity. People here are happier, have a better family and social structure, live in their means, and have affordable satellite TV too. Even the most primitive household has that, the people are not buried under debts as they are in the US. We eat fresh vegetables, fish, etc. and are not fat, thus eliminating expensive health risks.
    In Response

    by: J Smith Anderson
    May 23, 2014 6:53 PM
    Being from that part of the world and now living in America I can definitely say that you don't know what you are talking about. If you think it's better there than here then I'll give you names of people would gladly trade places with you.
    America is the only country I know where the "poor" people are fat and have satellite TV service in their living rooms.

    by: Spawn_of_Santa from: Houston, Tx
    May 23, 2014 12:55 PM
    Eh, Thailand's having another coup.... just another day..... it's like a national pasttime for them.
    In Response

    by: zd from: Bangkok
    May 23, 2014 11:46 PM
    Over 75% of the people are relieved that there is now some order back and someone took the needed position of an adult. The biggest worry is now that the birthrate will go up in the next year as mor people have to get along with out TV and being early home.

    Life is going on in Thailand as nothing has happened. It is needed to say that the perception here is different than the rest of the world and maybe the rest of the workd needs to examine the symptoms first before prescribing treatments. There is no one solution fits all problems, calling for immediate elections will not solve the problem, it woukd be like putting a bandaid on a wound that needs an operation to save the life of the patient.

    by: OC resident from: Orange, CA
    May 23, 2014 12:25 PM
    Thailand has been going through political protests for months and both sides are unable to compromise for the sake of the country and its people. The coup is bloodless. Daily activities have been carried out normally. History indicates Thailand has had several peaceful, bloodless military coups for political change. I would stand by and let the General does what's best for the people of Thailand. It seems he is on the right track so far. Martial Law sounds scary but in this case it's an exception. I hope the General settles both parties, starts fresh government, gets Thailand economy up running at its optimum, so the country can prosper and Thais can smile beautifully.

    by: Flavo from: Athens
    May 23, 2014 10:54 AM
    AGENDA 21 is at EVERYONES doorstep.

    EXPOSE AGENDA 21!!!!

    by: unclesam20009 from: Shengzhen, China
    May 23, 2014 8:05 AM
    Democracy is a good thing, but not an easy thing. Sometimes half Democracy not necessarily better than dictatorship.
    In Response

    by: zd from: Bangkok
    May 23, 2014 11:34 PM
    Democracy is a double edged sword. When democracy is misused like this government did it is worth than a dictatorship as it is hidden like a wolf in sheepskin.

    Democracy also has responsibilities and this government did not take any responsibility for their actions. It is better for the military to step in abd find a solution than for a civil war to brake out with more loss of lifes than already lost. Elections are not always the way to go, have we not learned our lesson from history? How many elections have been supported that brought worse conditions to the people of those countries and the world?
    In Response

    by: Ian from: Dallas, TX USA
    May 23, 2014 1:33 PM
    The "average Thai" is poor. The opposition party does not even pretend to be democratic. They want an appointed government to their favor. Thailand has dysfunctional government and political system where no one believes in the give and take of compromise, of trying to lift everyone, including those less fortunate. Reminds me of Egypt; or the United States without a military junta.
    In Response

    by: 80 and counting from: texas
    May 23, 2014 9:19 AM
    I would hope we the United States keep our nose out of Thailand's internal affairs. The person that are in the position to provide valid information for our government apparently are asleep or influenced by Gala dinners and interpersonal feelings etc.
    I recall one statement she made were she said that the Thai people loved the Prime Minister (Yingluck). What she should've said to give us correct information is that poor Thai's had been bought (their votes) with financial promises such as unusually high prices for rice they loved her because they were hoping to be paid for the Rice the government took. For the average Thai they are paying for a corrupt government in the price of petrol (gasoline) cooking gas and other necessities needed by the common person.

    I think the General is going about this in the correct way and possibly if he is allowed to follow his plan without outside interference he may be able to get the country on an even keel that will result in true democracy. Democracy is more than just a word. Is a country practicing democracy when segments attempt to restrict the ability of members of the public from voting? Two elections in the United States in my opinion have not been a demonstration of democracy i.e. the vote in Florida the state that the winning president's brother was a governor. Four years later what happened in Ohio? We did not have countries around the world coming in and telling the United States that we did not run our country in the true spirit of democracy. I think we should sit back and allow the Thai's to straighten out a mess that has been a round since 2006.

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