Friday, May 23, 2014

Thailand: Update--Media Censored, 150 VIPs Denied Travel, Curfew Enforced, Gen. Prayuth Serving as PM

According to CNN an hour ago, all international media has been removed from the airways.

The Thai military on Friday (May 23) tightened its grip on the politically unstable southeast Asian nation, banning more than 150 prominent figures from leaving the country and threatening to arrest politicians who disobey its orders.

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 46, was among those who reported to the military junta, which seized power in a bloodless coup on Thursday (May 22) after months of turmoil that paralyzed much of the government and caused deadly clashes in the streets of Bangkok.

The United States and other countries have criticized the military's intervention, the latest in a long list of coups in Thailand, and called for the swift restoration of democracy.

Yingluck, whose government was in power when the unrest began in November 2013, was removed from office this month by the country's Constitutional Court over the appointments of top security officials.

It has also called on more than 100 others, including prominent figures on both sides of Thailand's political divide, to come to military facilities. Those who don't report, it has warned, will be arrested.

Yingluck was being detained at a military barracks outside Bangkok, the Thai government's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Paradon Patthanathabut, said late Friday. Paradon said Yingluck was detained for her own safety along with and former ministers and one-time members of her Cabinet. 

COMMENT: Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, head of the Thai Army, has assumed the powers to act as Prime Minister until a new one takes office, the military said Thursday.

How the government will operate remains unclear, given that the military also has thrown out the constitution it drew up in 2007 after a previous coup, except for Section 2, which acknowledges that the King is the head of state.

The last six months have been marked by large-scale protests, both by those backing Yingluck's government and those who opposed to it. There have been periodic outbursts of deadly violence in the streets.

Under the new order, schools will be closed nationwide between Friday and Sunday, the military said. A curfew has been established during 2200-0500 hours. 

All state-run, satellite and cable TV providers have been ordered to carry only the signal of the army's television channel; CNN is among those networks that have been taken off air.

The military warned against posting misleading or critical comments on social media platforms.

The US Embassy in Bangkok has updated its guidance for Americans traveling to Thailand. It "recommends that U.S. citizens reconsider any non-essential travel to Thailand, particularly Bangkok, due to ongoing political and social unrest and restrictions on internal movements, including an indefinite nighttime curfew."

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.