An anti-coup protester is held back by her friends after she shouted at soldiers during a protest in Bangkok on Friday. (AFP)
Bangkok, May 23 (Reuters): Thailand’s military rulers detained former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today, a senior officer said, after summoning her for talks a day after the army overthrew her caretaker government in a coup.
As the army moved to consolidate its grip on the country, its chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, set out his plans for the country, saying reforms were needed before an election. But some Thais defied martial law to protest against the takeover.
Prayuth launched his coup after rival factions refused to give ground in a struggle for power between the royalist establishment and Yingluck’s populist government that had raised fears of serious violence and damaged the economy. “We have detained Yingluck, her sister and brother-in-law,” a senior military officer told Reuters. The two relatives have held top political posts.
“We will do so for not more than week, that would be too long. We just need to organise matters in the country first,” said the officer who declined to be identified.
He declined to say where Yingluck was being held, but media said she was at an army base in Saraburi province, north of Bangkok. Soldiers detained politicians from both sides yesterday after Prayuth announced the military takeover, which drew swift international condemnation.
In what appeared to be a coordinated operation to neutralise possible opposition to the coup, the military summoned the ousted Yingluck to a meeting and then banned her and 154 others, including politicians and activists, from leaving Thailand.
Responding to the summons, Yingluck arrived at an army facility at noon along with other politicians. Prayuth was there at the same time but there was no confirmation they met.
After Prayuth had left, nine vans with tinted windows were seen leaving but it was not clear if Yingluck was in one of them or where they were going.
An aide to a minister in the ousted government who declined to be identified said some people, including his minister, had been detained. A former aide to Yingluck said she been out of telephone contact for hours.
Yingluck was forced to step down as Prime Minister by a court on May 7 but her caretaker government, buffeted by more than six months of protests against it, had remained nominally in power, even after the army declared martial law on Tuesday.
Prayuth also summoned hundreds of civil servants and told them he needed their help. “We must have economic, social and political reforms before elections. If the situation is peaceful, we are ready to return power to the people,” he said.
The military has censored the media, dispersed rival protesters and imposed a nationwide 10pm to 5am curfew. The armed forces have a long history of intervening in politics - there have been 18 previous successful or attempted coups.