Thailand’s new military junta has summoned ousted government leaders after seizing power, as opponents of the coup engaged in a tense confrontation with soldiers enforcing martial law.
The kingdom’s tough-talking army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha deposed the civilian government on Thursday, the latest twist in years of escalating political turmoil in a move that drew a chorus of international criticism.
Civil liberties have been drastically curbed, most of the constitution suspended, and a night-time curfew imposed as the army cleared warring protesters from Bangkok’s streets.
But in a sign of emerging disquiet on the streets, scores of demonstrators confronted and hurled abuse at soldiers in tense scenes on Friday afternoon in the centre of the capital, amid other smaller protests.
The army poured dozens of soldiers in to clear the area of the protesters, some of whom held protest signs with slogan such as “We will never lick dictatorship’s boots”
Witnesses reported seeing several people taken away by troops but no clashes were seen.
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was removed from office in a controversial court ruling earlier this month, was among more than three dozen prominent figures from both sides of Thailand’s political divide summoned by the junta.
She arrived at a Bangkok army facility.
Yingluck’s whereabouts, and those of others called in including her successor Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, were unclear hours later.
The army said 155 prominent figures were banned from leaving the country without permission, a step analysts said appeared aimed at averting formation of a government-in-exile.
The coup has drawn rebukes from Washington, Europe and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who all called for civilian control to be restored.
The United States has suspended $3.5 million, about a third of its aid to the ally, and said it was also reviewing the rest of US aid to the country.
Thailand has been in political crisis since a 2006 military coup deposed Yingluck’s elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire tycoon-turned-populist politician who clashed with the royalist establishment.
The military held power for more than a year.
Since then, a power bloc centred on Thaksin’s family has battled for primacy with a Bangkok-based royalist camp closely tied to the powerful military.
His so-called “Red Shirt” supporters have warned that an overthrow of the government could trigger civil war and all eyes are on the movement’s response.