The First Five Hours of Thailand’s 12th Coup

A Thai soldier stands guard on Ratchadamnoern Avenue in central Bangkok. Photo by Matthew Richards, Copyright @Demotix (5/22/2014)

A Thai soldier stands guard on Ratchadamnoern Avenue in central Bangkok. Photo by Matthew Richards, Copyright @Demotix (5/22/2014)

Two days after declaring martial law and failing to mediate between rival political forces, the Royal Thai Army has launched a coup in Thailand, suspended the 2007 Constitution (except provisions on the monarchy), seized control of major media stations, and imposed a night time curfew. This is Thailand’s 12th coup; but more than 20 if we include the unsuccessful coup attempts in the past century.

The army said the coup is necessary to restore peace and security in the country after several months of bitter and sometimes violent political conflicts between opposition forces and government supporters.

According to initial reports, the army detained key opposition figures, some Cabinet members, and protest leaders. The rest of the Cabinet are ordered to report to the army at the soonest time possible. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the caretaker Prime Minister is not known. There is also no news (as of this writing) about the location of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

News channels have ceased operations in the evening and public gatherings of more than 5 people are now banned across the country:

7.46pm: The military has begun taking international news channels off air. BBC and CNN are now unavailable. There has been no notable Internet censorship reported so far. 7.39pm: No public gatherings of more than five people are permitted in Thailand, the army has said.

The army advised the public not to panic.

Instead of news reports, this is what is beamed live on Thai TV channels: the name of the official body created by the army to take over the government:

Earlier, the army took control of 14 TV stations and 2,000 radio stations across the country. After the coup, more soldiers were deployed in the offices of newspapers and other media outfits.

Even online media has been targeted by the army. So far, six “inappropriate” websites have been blocked already. But authorities insisted that this is not censorship:

This is to ask for cooperation in monitoring content which may affect peace and order. THIS IS NOT CENSORSHIP AT ALL, but a blockade only of content or websites which may contravene public morals and cause conflict and unrest and a threat to national security.

TV stations are also prohibited from broadcasting on YouTube:

Prachatai, an independent media site, displays a banner opposing the coup

Prachatai, an independent media site, displays a banner opposing the coup

Soldiers were deployed in the streets to maintain order. This photo shows soldiers blocking a road near the U.S. Embassy

The army showed proof of high caliber weapons seized from elements who wanted to create mayhem in the country:

Learning about the 10:00pm curfew, many Thais rushed to go home to avoid being penalized

traffic jams all over Bangkok

To comply with the curfew, train service closed early as well:

21.05 time's up!! BTS sky train no longer in service

And many Thais realized that the coup was real when even the popular 7-11 shops announced the closing of operations starting at 10:00pm.

There will be no school in the next few days. Aside from night shift workers, especially hospital workers, those who are going to the airport are exempted from the curfew. The airport has provided space for tourists who wish to sleep or rest inside the airport:

There were rumors that Internet will be disrupted but it didn't happen. Hopefully, Internet connection will remain because it is the only available public tool for information sharing and news reporting about the situation in Thailand. The army is sure to antagonize many Thais if it will cut-off the Internet. See this warning from a Thai netizen:

“You can do whatever you want, just don’t cut my internet.”

The Twitter hashtag #ThaiCoup is useful to monitor the events in the country.


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