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Thai Military Stages Coup

21 May 2014

After declaring nationwide martial law on 20 May, the Thai military took control of the whole country on 22 May. Even though army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha did not use the word ‘coup’ in his televised address, the constitution was suspended along with all television and radio stations. In what is the country’s second military takeover of an elected government in the last decade, 155 people, including politicians and activists, were banned from leaving the country. A curfew was established from 10pm to 5am and gatherings of more than five people banned.

General Prayuth, who is now acting Prime Minister, said the seizing of power was necessary ‘in order for the country to return to normality quickly, and for society to love and be at peace again’.

The EU reacted by stating that it was ‘following developments in Thailand with extreme concern’, that ‘international human rights standards, including media freedom, must be upheld’, and that Thailand should return ‘rapidly to the legitimate democratic process’.

Both German Foreign Minister Steinmeier and French President Hollande condemned the coup and called on the Thai military to respect the fundamental freedoms of the Thai people. Both highlighted the importance of organizing an electoral process.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that there was ‘no justification for this military coup’ and urged ‘the restoration of civilian government immediately’. He further announced negative consequences for Thai-US relations and said they were ‘reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements.’

Former caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who had been removed from office by a ruling of the Constitutional Court on 7 May, was summoned by the army to a meeting along with other family members.

General Prayuth urged the public not to panic and to continue working. Talks on 21 May between parties to the conflict, in particular the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), had not led to any agreement.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had been removed from office by a ruling of the Constitutional Court on 7 May. According to the court’s ruling, Yingluck had abused her power when she removed Thawil Pliensri as secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) in 2011.

Yingluck’s party had called the decision was a ‘new form of coup d’état’. In late March the Constitutional Court had declared the elections unconstitutional as they had not taken place on the same day across the country. The crisis and its impact have been weighing down Thailand’s economy over the last months.