A Thai Cabinet minister has been detained by armed troops after defiantly emerging from hiding to condemn last week’s military coup, urging a return to civilian rule.
His public appearance comes as the first by any member of the ousted government.
About half a dozen soldiers took Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang into custody in a chaotic scene at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, where he had just finished giving a surprise news conference.
The junta, which seized power last week, is already holding most top members of the Southeast Asian country’s elected administration and has ordered the rest to surrender.
Chaturon called for elections and warned that resistance to the army overthrow could grow, which could lead to “a disaster for this country.”
When the news conference was finished and Chaturon was being interviewed by a group of Thai journalists, soldiers entered the room, surrounded him, and escorted him out through a crowd of reporters. He was calm and smiling as he was taken away.
Before being hustled into an elevator, Chaturon said: “I’m not afraid. If I was afraid, I wouldn’t be here.”
The military takeover, Thailand’s second in eight years, deposed an elected government that had insisted for months that the nation’s fragile democracy was under attack from protesters, the courts, and finally the army.
The country is deeply split between an elite establishment based in Bangkok and the south that cannot win elections on one side, and a poorer majority centred in the north that has begun to realise political and economic power on the other.
“A coup d’tat is not a solution to the problems or conflicts in Thai society, but will make the conflicts even worse,” Chaturon said.
According to him, he told only a few people in advance of his appearance. He said he would not resist arrest or go underground, but since he does not “accept the coup, I could not report to those who staged it.”
“I still insist to use my own rights and liberty to call for returning the country to democracy,” he said.