BANGKOK — Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and leading members of Thailand’s deposed government surrendered to the military today after being summoned by the generals now leading the country.
The political leaders were detained, the military said, without providing information about their whereabouts. Yingluck was one of about 150 people sent for by the junta, which seized power in a coup Thursday.
Even as military leaders tried to tighten their hold on the country, there were early signs of defiance toward Thailand’s second coup in a decade.
Small groups of people opposed to the coup gathered around Bangkok and a northern city, Chiang Mai, displaying signs critical of the military. Some symbolically taped their mouths shut.
Despite a ban by the junta on gatherings of more than five people, hundreds of protesters assembled in Bangkok’s main shopping district and confronted a line of heavily armed soldiers. “Get out, dictators!” chanted the crowd, which had been organized through Facebook.
One man shouted, “The anti-coup protests have begun.”
The protesters were dispersed by soldiers at dusk, and about five people were arrested.
During the last coup, in 2006, opposition to the military coalesced more slowly.
Thailand has had about a dozen coups over the past eight decades, but analysts said Thursday’s upheaval was among the most contentious, and risky. The party that was ousted is well organized and has vowed to fight for electoral democracy.
One prominent member of the movement supporting the deposed government, Sombat Boonngamanong, wrote on Facebook that he would defy a military summons. “Catch me if you can,” he titled his post.
“I don’t accept the power of the coup makers,” he wrote, urging Thais to “join the resistance.”
The political movement was founded by Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a tycoon and former prime minister. The coup has effectively disenfranchised Thaksin’s many supporters in the rural north of the country, who keep winning national elections only to see their chosen leaders ousted in a long-running political struggle with the Bangkok establishment. The 2006 coup unseated Thaksin, who now lives in self-imposed exile rather than face corruption charges at home that he says are politically motivated.
Still, as with the coup in 2006, many Thais said this week that they were grateful toward the military, blaming politicians for a six-month political deadlock and saying it necessitated a takeover.
“It’s time to clean this country up,” read one comment on a special Facebook page that was set up by the junta but carried a wide range of opinions. “Hooray! Our hearts are with the Thai military.”
Another posting described the coup as futile because Thaksin’s political movement would probably win elections again once democracy returned to the country. His movement has won every election since 2001, but its leaders have been removed from power five times, including three times by the courts, whose decisions have largely favored the traditional elites.
Yingluck was out of office at the time of this week’s coup, after having been removed this month by a court ruling; one of her deputies had taken over as prime minister.
There was a sense among analysts and commentators that Thailand’s political turmoil was far from over.
The Bangkok Post, an English-language daily newspaper, warned in an editorial that a coup was “not the solution.” The military’s takeover is “likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life,” it said.
The United States today urged citizens to “reconsider any nonessential travel to Thailand.”
The military takeover drew rebukes from the United States and other world powers, and today, Marie Harf, the deputy State Department spokeswoman, said the department had suspended $3.5 million in financing for military sales and military training and was reviewing the rest of the $10.5 million in assistance it was providing Thailand.
Asked what steps Thailand’s military needed to take to improve relations with the United States, and presumably qualify for a resumption of aid, Harf said, “We urge the immediate restoration of civilian rule, a return to democracy, and obviously respect for human rights during this period of uncertainty.”
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.