BANGKOK (AP) — After six months of political deadlock, protests and deadly violence, Thailand’s military seized power in a coup and scrapped the constitution on Thursday. It was Thailand’s second coup in eight years and 12th since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. Here’s a summary of events and a guide to understanding what is happening.
HOW IS THE COUP PLAYING OUT?
The coup has not led to any reported violence so far, and the streets of central Bangkok seemed fairly normal Friday morning. There was no visible presence of soldiers, as street vendors sold their goods and people made their way to work following a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Some roads were blocked with armored personnel carriers.
All national broadcasting remained suspended Friday and replaced by a static screen showing military crests and the junta’s self-declared name: National Peace and Order Maintaining Council. BBC, CNN and other international TV news networks were blocked.
The military ordered schools throughout the country to close until Monday.
KEY FIGURES SUMMONED
The military on Friday summoned the key players in Thailand’s monthslong conflict, including the entire ousted government and members of the politically influential Shinawatra family, which is at the heart of the turmoil.
It was unclear why more than 100 people, including ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, were ordered to report to an army compound in Bangkok. The army said it summoned the high-profile figures “to keep peace and order and solve the country’s problems.”
After about 30 minutes, Yingluck left the compound and was taken to another army location by soldiers, according to her aide.
THE WORLD REACTS
Many countries expressed concern and disappointment over the coup, with the U.S. saying there was “no justification” for the takeover.
Washington froze U.S. military assistance after Thailand’s last coup in 2006 for 1 1/2 years until democracy was restored. This time it said it was reviewing military ties and preparing to suspend up to $10 million in aid to Thailand. It also called for the release of any detained political leaders and voiced concern about media restrictions under the coup.
Australia said it was “gravely concerned” about the situation in Thailand, a major destination for Australian tourists.
Japan called the coup “deeply regrettable” and urged that democracy be quickly restored. French President Francois Hollande condemned the coup and called for the respect of the Thai people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.
The powerful army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced the military takeover on television at about 5 p.m. Thursday. Prayuth, who is 60 and scheduled to retire in September, is notorious for flippant comments and gruff answers to the media.
Prayuth is known for his loyalty to the monarchy, especially to Queen Sirikit, having served in the 21st Infantry Regiment, known as the Queen’s Guard. Both Prayuth and his predecessor and mentor, former army chief Gen. Anupong Phaochinda, played key roles in the 2006 coup that toppled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother.
WHAT LED TO THIS?
Street protests started in November against then-Prime Minister Yingluck, and she dissolved the lower house of Parliament in a failed bid to ease the crisis. A court ousted her for nepotism this month but left the ruling party in place. Anti-government protesters wanted to install an unelected prime minister to make unspecified reforms they said would root out corruption and remove the Shinawatra family’s extensive influence from politics.
In first declaring martial law on Tuesday, the army said it needed to restore order. Last week, grenades fired at an anti-government protest site in Bangkok left three people dead and more than 20 injured. At least 28 people have died in protest-related violence since November.
Prayuth assumed the role of mediator by summoning seven key political rivals for their first face-to-face talks since the political turmoil escalated six months ago. Meetings on Wednesday and Thursday among bitter enemies failed to break the deadlock before Prayuth announced the coup.
Prayuth said the coup was launched “to quickly bring the situation back to normal, to let the people have love and unity as in the past, and to reform the political and economic systems – and to grant equality to every side.”
Critics, however, doubt the military’s sincerity.
The coup “is another setback for Thailand’s struggling democracy,” said Kevin Hewison, a Thai studies experts who heads the Asia Research Centre at Australia’s Murdoch University. “In 2006, the military came to face considerable opposition to its heavy-handedness and conservative ideology. 2014 is likely to be even more difficult for them.”