Prayuth made the announcement in a television broadcast after he
held a meeting with all rival factions aimed at finding a solution
to six months of anti-government protests.
"In order for the situation to return to normal quickly and for
society to love and be at peace again ... and to reform the
structure of the political, economic and social structure, the
military needs to take control of power," Prayuth said in the
The broadcast came shortly after soldiers took the leader of
anti-government protests, Suthep Thaugsuban, out of the meeting that
was aimed at finding a solution to a drawn-out power struggle that
has polarized the country and battered its economy.
The crisis is the latest installment in a long battle between
supporters of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and
opponents backed by the royalist establishment.
The army had declared martial law on Tuesday, saying the measure was
necessary to prevent violence, but it rejected accusations the
measure amounted to a coup.
CALL FOR COMPROMISE
Prayuth had called on the two sides in a first round of talks on
Wednesday to agree on a compromise that would have hinged around the
appointment of an interim prime minister, political reforms and the
timing of an election.
Wednesday's talks ended inconclusively with neither side backing
down from their entrenched positions, participants said.
The army had let rival protesters remain on the streets but it
banned them from marching to prevent clashes. It has also clamped
down on the media, including partisan television channels, and
warned people not to spread inflammatory material on social media.
After the coup announcement, a senior army official said troops
would escort protests away from their rally sites.
Leaders of the ruling Puea Thai Party and the opposition Democrat
Party, the Senate leader and the five-member Election Commission had
joined the second round of talks at an army base in Bangkok.
Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan told reporters
before the talks that his government could not resign as its enemies
were demanding as that would contravene the constitution.
"The government wants the problem solved in a democratic way which
includes a government that comes from elections," he said.
Government officials were not available for comment after the coup
[to top of second column]
Former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin has lived in self-exile
since 2008 to avoid a jail term for graft, but still commands the
loyalty of legions of rural and urban poor and exerts a huge
influence over politics, most recently through a government run by
his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Yingluck was forced to step down
as premier by a court two weeks ago, but her caretaker government
remains nominally in power, despite the declaration of martial law
and six months of sometimes violent protests aimed at ousting it.
Thailand's gross domestic product contracted 2.1 percent in
January-March from the previous three months, largely because of the
unrest, adding to fears it is stumbling into recession.
The protesters say Thaksin is a corrupt crony capitalist who
commandeered Thailand's fragile democracy, using taxpayers' money to
buy votes with populist giveaways.
They wanted a "neutral" interim prime minister to oversee electoral
reforms aimed at ridding the country of the Shinawatra family's
political influence before any new vote.
The government and its supporters said a general election that it
would likely win was the best way forward and it had proposed polls
on August 3, to be followed by reforms.
Earlier on Thursday, anti-government protest leader Suthep, a former
deputy prime minister in a government run by the pro-establishment
Democrat Party, told his supporters victory was imminent.
Thaksin's red shirt loyalists, rallying in Bangkok's outskirts, had
warned of violence if the caretaker government is thrown out.
Twenty-eight people have been killed and 700 injured since this
latest chapter in the power struggle between Thaksin and the
royalist elite flared up late last year.
(Additional reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Robert
Birsel; Editing by Alan Raybould and Alex Richardson)
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