Skip to main content

Thai general warns protesters after announcing royal endorsement

By Paula Hancocks and Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 6:25 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The leader of rallies against the former government is released on bail
  • Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha urges people to stop protesting or risk crackdown
  • He says he has the King's approval to head the ruling military council
  • The military took power last week after months of political turmoil

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- The general who seized control of Thailand in a coup last week said Monday that he has received royal endorsement to run the politically unstable country and warned of a potential crackdown on people protesting military rule.

Dressed in a white uniform and flanked by more than a dozen other military officials, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha addressed reporters in Bangkok, saying he had received a royal command from the country's deeply revered King to head the ruling military council.

Thai anti-coup activist Sombat Boonngamanong, center, gestures as he arrives escorted by police and soldiers at a military court in Bangkok on Thursday, June 12. The prominent anti-coup figure faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted of incitement, computer crimes and ignoring a summons by the junta, police said. The Thai military carried out a coup May 22 after months of unrest had destabilized the country's elected government and caused outbursts of deadly violence in Bangkok. Thai anti-coup activist Sombat Boonngamanong, center, gestures as he arrives escorted by police and soldiers at a military court in Bangkok on Thursday, June 12. The prominent anti-coup figure faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted of incitement, computer crimes and ignoring a summons by the junta, police said. The Thai military carried out a coup May 22 after months of unrest had destabilized the country's elected government and caused outbursts of deadly violence in Bangkok.
Military coup in Thailand
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Military coup in Thailand Photos: Military coup in Thailand

Saying there was "no set time period" for when new elections might be held, Prayuth outlined the steps he said his junta plans to take, including setting up a committee to introduce reforms.

Thailand coup into its third day

But he also issued a warning to the groups of protesters who have gathered in Bangkok in recent days to voice their opposition to the coup and call for democratic elections.

Thai military cracks down after coup

The demonstrators, who numbered in the hundreds on Sunday, have scuffled with soldiers in the streets. So far, the military has allowed the small-but-growing protests to take place, even though martial law forbids gatherings of more than five people.

Thai military tightens grip with curfew

With more protests expected Monday, Prayuth suggested the military wouldn't tolerate public displays of dissent indefinitely, saying the situation was reaching a "boiling point."

He urged people to stop demonstrating, warning that they risk a stricter enforcement of martial law and prosecution in military courts, and told journalists and social media users not to transmit provocative messages.

Coup criticized

The Thai military carried out the coup Thursday -- tearing up the constitution and imposing a curfew -- after months of unrest that had destabilized the elected government and caused outbursts of deadly violence in Bangkok.

But the sudden intervention by the armed forces -- the latest in a series of coups that have punctuated modern Thai history -- has been criticized by human rights activists and foreign governments, including the United States.

Receiving endorsement from King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand's ailing but widely admired monarch, adds legitimacy to Prayuth's credentials.

But it appears unlikely to change the opinions of many of the protesters who have been taking to the streets to demonstrate against the coup. Other Thais have expressed hope that the military will succeed in bringing an end to the crisis that has plagued the country for months..

Politicians, academics summoned

Since taking power, military authorities have summoned -- and in some cases detained -- scores of leading political officials and other prominent figures, such as academics and business leaders. Travel bans have also been imposed.

Among the most high-profile figures who've turned themselves in is former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was in office when the current phase of political turmoil began in November.

Yingluck, who was removed from office by the courts earlier this month, was released from a military facility over the weekend after she followed a summons to report to military authorities on Friday.

A military source said Yingluck was asked to "help us maintain peace and order and not to get involved with protesters or any political movement" and now has freedom of movement and communication.

But a close aide to Yingluck disagreed with the assertion that she was free to move and communicate. She is yet to make any public statement since the coup.

Thaksin's influence

The recent unrest was driven by months of protests against Yingluck's government.

The protest leaders said they wanted to rid Thailand of the influence of Yingluck and her wealthy brother, the exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in the country's last military coup in 2006.

The Shinawatras' powerful political movement, which has dominated elections for more than a decade, draws its support from Thailand's populous rural regions in the north and northeast.

But it is unpopular among the Bangkok elites, who accuse it of buying votes through ill-judged, populist policies.

The protesters who campaigned against Yingluck's government claimed Thailand needed reforms to be imposed by an unelected council before any further elections could take place.

With the military's intervention, they appear to have got their wish, although some of the protest leaders were taken into custody after the coup.

Suthep Thaugsuban, the ring leader of the anti-Yingluck protests, was released on bail of 600,000 baht ($18,000) with instructions he can't leave the country, his organization said Monday on its Facebook page.

It remains unclear how the pro-Thaksin red shirt movement, which held mass rallies in central Bangkok in 2010, will respond to military rule. Some of the top red shirt leaders are also among those who were detained by military authorities.

READ: Soldiers, selfies and a military coup

READ: Is Thailand safe for tourists?

READ: Thai military: Think before you tweet

CNN's Paula Hancocks reported from Bangkok, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Kocha Olarn and journalist Kiki Dhitavat contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Thailand coup
updated 3:21 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
The military leader who took control of Thailand in a coup in May has been named the country's prime minister.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
Thailand's new military ruler has added a personal touch to the post-coup charm offensive, writing the lyrics to a pro-junta ballad.
updated 1:03 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Pageant winner Weluree "Fai" Ditsayabut has relinquished her title under a barrage of criticism over her comments about red shirts.
updated 7:32 AM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
They may not be led by Katniss Everdeen, but Thai protesters have adopted one of her symbols. Jessica King reports.
updated 3:29 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
The general who seized control of Thailand in a coup has announced he has received royal endorsement to run the country.
updated 3:01 PM EDT, Sun May 25, 2014
Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is no longer in military custody, according to a highly placed source in the junta.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Sun May 25, 2014
Photos of the demonstrations against military rule in Thailand.
updated 4:03 PM EDT, Sat May 24, 2014
U.S. suspends $3.5 million in aid to Thailand after the military took charge of the country.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Thailand's military declared Thursday that it has taken control of the country in a coup. What does it mean? Here's our explainer.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
If you're planning on visiting the country, you should be aware of what's going on.
updated 4:55 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
The U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, reacts to the Thai military coup.
updated 8:04 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
The Thai military has censored TV and radio -- and social media could be next.
updated 2:02 PM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
Many people are going about their lives as normal -- some are even responding playfully.
One iReporter living in Bangkok says he is more worried about neighborhood snakes than the military coup.
updated 5:48 PM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
Thailand's military chief announces coup in a televised national address.
ADVERTISEMENT