05/22/2014, 00.00
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Military coup in Bangkok: after prolonged stalemate, the army takes over government and reforms

In a nationwide televised address Armed Forces chief Gen. Prayuth Chan- ocha , states that the army has taken control of the country and suspended the Constitution. Fate of some protest leaders, taken by the soldiers unknown. Curfew imposed. AsiaNews sources speak of coup as foregone conclusion that will allow some breathing space “but problems remain unresolved".

Bangkok (AsiaNews ) - The Thai army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has declared a military coup and suspended the constitution, confirming that the Army has taken control of the government of the country. In a speech broadcast nationwide, the commander stressed that the military "will return order" to the country and "will launch" long overdue political reforms blocked by a stalemate between the executive and the opposition, involving Yellow Shirt protesters closer to the Democratic Party and the Red Shirts faithful to the Shinawatra family.

The army coup comes after two days of talks and negotiations between the various political factions broke down without any result. Soldiers have closed down the buildings where the meetings were taking place and removed the leaders of the respective political parties. There are unconfirmed reports that the various leaders of the Red and Yellow factions have been "stopped" or "arrested", but there is no certain information about their whereabouts .

Thailand has been swept by a deep political crisis for months, which on May 20 pushed the military to declare martial law and impose censorship on the media. As this article is being posted online, the army is sending additional troops and armored vehicles to the places seen as key protest areas, to disperse the crowd of protesters who have been camped out on the streets and symbolic areas of the capital for days. The military has also imposed a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am.

Catholic sources for AsiaNews in Bangkok, speaking on condition of anonymity, report that the Thai population "is used to these situations," and " half expected the arrival of the coup". After months of stalling people "had hoped the military would intervene to break the deadlock".  Rumors of a coup in  the higher ranks of the Armed Forces "was in the air". The source continues that the officers "allowed things to proceed without intervening until it became clear that nobody had the will or intention to reach an agreement." The problems will not be solved by a coup, said the source , but for a few months "there will be a little 'breathing space. Nevertheless, the real conflict will go ahead while the real problems remain unsolved".

The political and institutional crisis in the second largest Asian economy worsened in December, when the Prime Minister Shinawatra dissolved parliament and called for early elections.  Detractors accused her of being a " puppet" in the hands of her brother Thaksin, a multibillionaire -in-exile to escape a two-year jail sentence for corruption.  In early May, a court ordered the removal of the Prime Minister and nine ministers for abuse of power; Shinawatra is also under investigation for her subsidy scheme for rice production which has caused a billion dollar hole in the state budget . Opponents want political reforms and new elections "to end the Thaksin regime".  However, since 2001, the Shinawatra family has consistently dominated polls drawing on broad popular support in the north and northeast.

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