BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s army chief seized power today in a bloodless coup, mounting the country’s 12th military takeover since 1932 in what he called a necessary move to restore stability after nearly seven months of political deadlock and deadly violence.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said a military commission that imposed martial law two days earlier would now take control of the country’s administration. All national broadcasting was suspended and replaced with the commission’s announcements and broadcasts of patriotic music.
The first announcement was a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
There was no immediate sign of soldiers patrolling central Bangkok, but troops were deployed to two areas of the capital where competing groups of protesters had gathered, raising fears of street clashes.
“It is necessary for the Peace and Order Maintaining Command — which includes army, navy, armed forces and police — to take control of governing the country,” Prayuth said in the televised announcement, flanked by the heads of the armed forces.
The pivotal development came after Prayuth declared martial law on Tuesday in what he called a bid to resolve the crisis and a day later summoned the country’s rival political leaders for face-to-face talks. Two days of talks failed to break the impasse.
Thailand has been gripped by bouts of political instability for more than seven years.
The latest round of unrest started in November, when demonstrators took to the streets to try to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. They accused her of being a proxy for her popular billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and now lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail sentence on a corruption conviction.