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Thailand’s ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra has pleaded not guilty in a brief hearing at the start of her trial on charges of negligence.

Yingluck Shinawatra, 47, faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of dereliction of duty over her role in a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

The former prime minister told crowds outside the court in Bangkok she would prove her innocence.

Yingluck Shinawatra was forced to step down last year shortly before a military coup.

She maintains that the charges she faces are intended to keep her out of politics. The next hearing in the trial has been scheduled for July 21.Yingluck Shinawatra negligence trial Thailand

Meanwhile Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra – himself ousted as prime minister by a previous coup in 2006 – has made a rare public appearance in Seoul, South Korea, saying he believed “democracy will prevail” in Thailand.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court forced Yingluck Shinawatra from office in early May 2014 after finding her guilty of abusing her power. Weeks later, the military seized power saying it needed to restore order following months of street protests.

In January 2015, Yingluck Shinawatra was retroactively impeached by a military-appointed legislature for her role in the rice subsidy scheme. She was also banned from politics for five years.


The scheme paid rice farmers in rural areas – where Yingluck Shinawatra’s party has most of its support – twice the market rate for their crops, in a program that cost the government billions of dollars.

Arriving at the Supreme Court on May 19, Yingluck Shinawatra told journalists she was confident of her innocence.

“I prepared myself well today and am ready to defend myself,” Reuters quoted the former prime minister as saying.

“I hope that I will be awarded justice.”

A small group of her supporters outside the court chanted “Yingluck, fight, fight!” as she arrived, though political gatherings are illegal under Thailand’s military rule.

Yingluck Shinawatra says she was not involved in the scheme’s day-to-day operations and has defended it as an attempt to support the rural poor.

Thaksin Shinawatra was removed by a previous coup in 2006. He now lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

However, the influence of the family persists, with parties allied to the Shinawatras winning every election since 2001.

They are loved in the rural north for their populist policies, but hated by Thailand’s elite who accuse them of corruption.

Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been ordered by the Supreme Court to stand trial for negligence over a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

Yingluck Shinawatra is facing a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

It is the latest blow to the dominance of the Shinawatra family in Thai politics, after Yingluck Shinawatra was banned from politics for five years.

Her government was ousted before the military took control in a coup in May last year, after months of protests.

In January, Yingluck Shinawatra was retroactively impeached for her role in the rice subsidy scheme by a military-appointed legislature.

Thailand’s attorney general then filed criminal charges against Yingluck Shinawatra in February, accusing her of dereliction of duty.

“The panel (of judges) has decided that this case falls within our authority. We accept this case,” said Judge Veeraphol Tangsuwan at the Supreme Court in Bangkok. The first hearing will be held on May 19.

Photo CNN

Photo CNN

The scheme paid rice farmers in the rural areas – the Shinawatra support base – twice the market rate for their crops, in a program that cost the government billions of dollars.

Yingluck Shinawatra says she was not involved in the scheme’s day-to-day operations, and has defended it as an attempt to support the rural poor.

The rice scheme was a factor in the street protests that led to the ousting of Yingluck Shinawatra’s government and the subsequent military coup.

It was the latest turn in the political turbulence that began when Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was removed by a previous coup in 2006.

Thaksin Shinawatra now lives in self-imposed exile. But the influence of the family persists, with parties allied to the Shinawatras winning every election since 2001.

Shinawatras are loved in the rural north for their populist policies, but hated by Thailand’s elite who accuse them of corruption.

Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra has been indicted over a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

If found guilty on the charge of negligence, Yingluck Shinawatra could be jailed for up to 10 years.

The anti-corruption agency has also called for Yingluck Shinawatra to be personally liable for losses to state coffers.

Yingluck Shinawatra was removed by a court in May 2014, shortly before the military ousted her elected government.

She was later impeached over the rice subsidy scheme and banned from politics for five years. Thailand, meanwhile, remains under martial law in the wake of the coup.

Yingluck Shinawatra was not at Bangkok’s Supreme Court to hear the indictment.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Under the rice subsidy scheme Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai-led government bought rice from Thai farmers at above the market rate, costing the government billions of dollars.

Critics accused Yingluck Shinawatra of funneling money to her core supporters. She said the policy was aimed at helping farmers and denied any day-to-day involvement in the running of the scheme.

The Supreme Court will decide on March 19 whether to pursue the criminal case.

Additionally, Finance Minister Sommai Phasee said on February 18 that the ministry had received a letter from the national corruption watchdog urging it to pursue civil suit against Yingluck Shinawatra to recover losses of 600 billion baht ($18.4 billion) related to the scheme.

“The finance ministry oversees damages to the state and is ready to take action,” he said.

The military seized power in May 2014 in what it said was a bid to restore public order after months of occasionally violent street protests against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

Thailand has been embroiled in a cycle of political instability since the military ousted Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, as prime minister in 2006.

The Shinawatra family are hugely popular among Thailand’s rural population but are hated by the urban middle-class and elite who accuse them of corruption.

Thaksin Shinawatra-linked parties, under various different names, have won every election since 2001.

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Thailand’s ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra has been impeached and banned from politics for five years following legislators vote.

The move relates to Yingluck Shinawatra involvement in a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

Earlier on Friday, the attorney general also announced that Yingluck Shinawatra would face a criminal charge over her role in the scheme.

A court removed Yingluck Shinawatra as prime minister in May 2014, days before the military ousted her government in a coup.

On Janaury 23, 190 out of 219 lawmakers present in the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted to impeach her. Eighteen voted against impeachment while the others abstained. One lawmaker was absent for the vote.

The votes were written on a whiteboard as they were tallied, and broadcast on national television.

Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, tycoon and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, remain hugely popular among Thailand’s rural poor, but are hated by an urban and middle-class elite who accuse them of corruption and abuse of power.Yingluck Shinawatra impeachment

Their party is the most popular in Thailand and has – under various different names – won every election since 2001.

The allegations against Yingluck Shinawatra centre around a scheme in which her Pheu Thai-led government bought rice from Thai farmers at a much higher price than on the global market.

It resulted in the accumulation of huge stockpiles of rice and hit Thailand’s rice exports hard.

Anti-corruption investigators have accused Yingluck Shinawatra and her party of using the scheme to buy votes from farmers, particularly from their power base in the north, and allowing government associates to profit from it.

Yingluck Shinawatra has maintained that she was not involved in the scheme’s day-to-day operations, and has defended it as an attempt to support the rural poor. She has also said that she could not be impeached as she has not held a position in the government for months.

Her supporters say the claims against her are a ruse to remove her from politics.

Yingluck Shinawatra also faces up to ten years in prison if she is found guilty of negligence of duty, which the attorney general charged her with on Friday morning.

Surasak Threerattrakul, director-general of the Office of the Attorney General, said after considering all the witnesses and evidence from the National Anti-Corruption Committee “we agree that the case substantiates a criminal indictment charge against Yingluck”.

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An impeachment hearing against former PM Yingluck Shinawatra has begun in Thailand’s parliament on January 9.

Yingluck Shinawatra could be banned from politics for five years after her impeachement.

The former prime minister, Thailand’s first woman in this position, was removed from office for abuse of power in May 2014 and days later her government was ousted in a military coup that ended months of street protests against her by her rivals.

Yingluck Shinawatra remains popular among the rural poor who elected her in a 2011 landslide, as does her brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the impeachment hearing could test a fragile calm under military rule.

In her opening statement to the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly, Yingluck Shinawatra said the proceedings were futile as she no longer held any political post.

“I was removed from my position as prime minister. I have no position left to be removed from,” Yingluck Shinawatra told the assembly.

About 20 of Yingluck Shinawatra’s supporters gathered outside parliament despite government warnings to stay away. Some held red roses and tried to raise pictures of the former prime minister until police told them to put them away.

Thailand is under martial law and public gatherings are banned.Yingluck Shinawatra impeachment hearing

The case concerns Yingluck Shinawatra’s role in a rice subsidy program which critics denounced as a wasteful handout to her supporters and which incurred billions of dollars in losses.

A day after she was ordered to step down in May, the National Anti-Corruption Commission indicted her for dereliction of duty in relation to the rice scheme.

The impeachment is the latest chapter in a divisive 10-year struggle for power between the Shinawatras and the royalist-military establishment which Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist former telecommunications tycoon, as a threat.

A guilty verdict would see Yingluck Shinawatra banned from politics.

Her supporters say the case is aimed at barring her from an election the military has promised to hold early next year and ending the influence of the Shinawatra family.

Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in self-exile to avoid a 2008 graft conviction but remains hugely influential.

The National Legislative Assembly has said a decision could come by the end of the month.

Under the subsidy scheme, Yingluck Shinawatra’s government bought rice from farmers at prices much higher than on the open market leading to huge stockpiles.

Yingluck Shinawatra defended the scheme in her opening statement.

“Please look at the benefits of the scheme and not just the financial cost,” she said.

Yingluck Shinawatra’s hearing resumes on Friday, January 16.

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Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been named the new prime minister of Thailand.

Prayuth Chan-ocha, 60, was nominated on August 21 in a legislature hand-picked by the junta and made up of mostly military and police figures.

The general was the head of the army when he led a dramatic coup in May.

It followed months of intense political deadlock between Yingluck Shinawatra’s government and opposition parties that resulted in protests and clashes.

Prayuth Chan-ocha was chosen after all 197 members of Thailand’s National Assembly cast their votes on Thursday morning.

The vote in Parliament was little more than a formality, lasting just 15 minutes, as Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha was the only candidate.

The assembly’s choice is expected to be approved by King Bhumibol Adulyadej later.

Although his role is meant to be an interim one as Prayuth Chn-ocha plans to hold a general election in late 2015.

Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been named the new prime minister of Thailand

Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been named the new prime minister of Thailand (photo AP)

He now wields enormous power and also still heads the military junta.

Prayuth Chn-ocha is expected to pick his new cabinet soon.

He has promised a root and branch reform of politics to prevent a return to the turmoil of recent years, offering a possible restoration of democratic rule next year.

However, critics believe his real priority is to destroy the political party of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, which has won every election for the past 14 years, and to secure a delicate royal succession.

Such goals would require a much longer democratic timetable.

Concerns have mounted that the military is seeking to strengthen its hold on the country.

Besides hand-picking the national assembly, the junta issued an interim constitution in July that gives the military sweeping powers.

It is appointing a national reform council that would help to come up with a permanent constitution that would take effect by July 2015.

Prayuth Chan-ocha and junta officials have argued that military rule has brought stability to Thailand following months of violent protests between the pro- and anti-Thaksin camps.

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Thailand’s ousted PM Yingluck Shinawatra has received approval to travel abroad for the first time since the military coup.

A military spokesman said the request had been approved because Yingluck Shinawatra had “kept a low profile” since her government was overthrown on May 22.

Reports suggest Yingluck Shinawatra will travel to France for the birthday of her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted ahead of the military coup by Thailand’s Constitutional Court

Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted ahead of the military coup by Thailand’s Constitutional Court

The military seized power after months of anti-government protests in Bangkok.

Thaksin Shianwatra, who turns 65 on July 26, was ousted in a coup in 2006.

He was removed by the military, kicking off a cycle of political instability in Thailand. Convicted of corruption by a Thai court, he has been living in self-imposed exile overseas.

Yingluck Shianwatra had asked to travel to Europe from July 20 to August 10, the military said.

They agreed because she had not “violated any orders of the NCPO [military junta] or any agreements, being the ban from politics or the ban on overseas travels” and had “given good co-operation all along”, spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree told a press conference.

At least 28 people died in the anti-government protests that brought Yingluck Shinawatra’s government down.

Yingluck Shinawatra herself was ousted ahead of the coup by a Constitutional Court ruling that said she had illegally transferred her national security head. She is currently facing charges linked to a controversial government rice subsidy scheme.

Thailand’s military leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has announced that new elections will only take place after October 2015.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha made the announcement in a speech that an interim constitution would be adopted next month.

A temporary cabinet would then govern until elections next year.

The military seized power on May 22, saying it wanted to return stability to Thailand after months of political and social unrest.

Since then, Thailand has been run by a military junta called the National Council for Peace and Order. It insists it is a neutral player among the country’s rival political factions.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said any new election in Thailand would have to take place under a new constitution

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said any new election in Thailand would have to take place under a new constitution (photo Reuters)

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup, said any new election would have to take place under a new constitution, which would be drafted by an appointed body.

“We want to see an election that will take place under the new constitution… that will be free and fair, so that it can become a solid foundation for a complete Thai democracy,” he said in a televised address.

“Today, if we go ahead and hold a general election, it will lead to a situation that creates conflict and the country will return to the old cycle of conflict, violence, corruption by influential groups in politics, terrorism and the use of war weapons” he added.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha also denied reports that the coup was planned in advance with anti-government protest leaders.

“I did not join any process or take part with any side”, he said.

The denial came after reports that protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said that he had discussed overthrowing the government with Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha many times in recent years.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and the army took over two weeks after PM Yingluck Shinawatra was removed from her role by a controversial court ruling.

Thailand’s military coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said elections will not be held for more than a year, to allow time for political reconciliation and reform.

In a televised address, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha called on all sides to co-operate and stop protesting.

He repeated warnings against any resistance to the military.

Thailand's military coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said elections will not be held for more than a year, to allow time for political reconciliation and reform

Thailand’s military coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said elections will not be held for more than a year, to allow time for political reconciliation and reform (photo Reuters)

The Thai army seized power on May 22, and detained senior politicians for several days saying stability had to be restored after months of unrest.

In his first public address since the coup, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said: “The ruling military regime have a timeframe of one year and three months to move towards elections.

“Enough time has been wasted on conflict.”

He said a first phase of about three months would focus on “reconciliation” with a cabinet and new draft constitution put in place.

Reforms would then be introduced over a second, year-long, period and only after this could elections be held.

“Give us time to solve the problems for you. Then the soldiers will step back to look at Thailand from afar,” he added.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has previously warned that if protests continued he would have no choice but to use force.

In his address he repeated the warnings, saying resistance would only slow the process of bringing “happiness” back to the Thai people.

Also on Friday, hundreds of troops sealed off a major Bangkok intersection during the evening rush hour to prevent a possible protest.

Thailand’s military stepped in after six months of political deadlock as protesters tried to oust the government of PM Yingluck Shinawatra.

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The Thai army announces it has now released 124 people, including politicians and activists, who were taken into custody after the coup.

A military spokesman said a total of 253 people had been summoned. Fifty-three did not report and 76 were in custody.

Conditions for the release appear to include agreeing to avoid political activity and informing the army of travel.

Coup leaders, who took power last week, received royal endorsement on Monday.

Thailand’s former PM Yingluck Shinawatra has been released but remains under some restrictions.

Yingluck Shinawatra has been released by Thailand’s army but remains under some restrictions

Yingluck Shinawatra has been released by Thailand’s army but remains under some restrictions (photo Reuters)

Aside from politicians and activists, academics have also been detained.

Thailand’s army seized power on May 22, saying it wanted to return stability to the country after months of unrest.

Leaders of the anti-government movement have been released from custody but representatives of those who support the government remain in detention.

Correspondents say there is also a degree of skepticism about the total number of people in custody, with reports of more widespread detentions.

Rights groups have expressed alarm over the detentions, as well as the tight restrictions on media.

Television stations on Wednesday aired footage from the military showing five detainees, including pro-government “red-shirt” leader Jatuporn Prompan, at an unidentified location, in an apparent move to show they were being treated well.

Experts have said that the coup is unlikely to heal highly polarized political divisions in the country.

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Thai army has detained former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng who emerged from hiding to criticize last week’s coup.

Shortly before he was held, Chaturon Chaisaeng said he believed the coup would be a disaster for Thailand.

However, Chaturon Chaisaeng said he had no intention of going underground or mobilizing resistance.

Thai army has detained former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng who emerged from hiding to criticize last week's coup

Thai army has detained former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng who emerged from hiding to criticize last week’s coup

On Monday the coup leaders consolidated their legal hold on the country after receiving the endorsement of the king.

The military seized power in Thailand last week, saying it planned to return stability to the country after months of unrest.

The move followed six months of political deadlock as protesters tried to oust the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. At least 28 people were killed and several hundred injured over the course of the protests.

However, the Thai coup – which removed an elected government – has drawn widespread international criticism.

Chaturon Chaisaeng is one of more than 100 opposition figures, academics and activists summoned to report to the military after the coup.

Many of those who have chosen, unlike Chaturon Chaisaeng, to report voluntarily are still in military custody.

Chaturon Chaisaeng was detained in front of journalists at Bangkok’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club where he had emerged from five days of hiding to give a press briefing.

Former PM Yingluck Shinawatra was among those taken into custody after the coup but a military spokesman told AFP news agency she had now been released.

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Thai coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has received royal endorsement at a ceremony in the capital, Bangkok, after taking power in a coup last week.

Prayuth Chan-ocha was formally appointed to run the nation at the army headquarters.

The 86-year-old monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, did not attend the ceremony.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has received royal endorsement at a ceremony in Bangkok

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has received royal endorsement at a ceremony in Bangkok

The military seized power in the South East Asian nation last week, saying it planned to return stability to Thailand after months of unrest.

The move followed six months of political deadlock as protesters tried to oust the government of PM Yingluck Shinawatra. At least 28 people were killed and several hundred injured over the course of the protests.

But the coup – which removed an elected government – has drawn widespread international criticism.

Small anti-coup protests took place in Bangkok over the weekend, despite a military ban on gatherings of more than five people.

Experts have also warned that the coup is unlikely to heal divisions in a nation in which politics have become highly polarized.

Prayuth Chan-ocha, dressed in white military uniform, received the royal endorsement on Monday morning.

“To restore peace and order in the country and for sake of unity, the king appointed General Prayuth Chan-ocha as head of the National Council of Peace and Order to run the country,” the royal command seen by AFP news agency said.

The monarchy is highly respected and royal endorsement is seen as key to legitimizing the takeover.

Speaking afterwards, Prayuth Chan-ocha said the most important thing was “to keep peace and order in the country”.

Elections would take place as soon as possible, he said, but gave no timeframe. He also said he would have no choice but to use force if protests continued.

The ruling junta is expected to set up a national legislative assembly that will draw up a temporary constitution with a new prime minister.

Since taking power, the military has summoned and detained dozens of key political figures, including Yingluck Shinawatra. Journalists and academics are also among those who have been called in.

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Ousted Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra and a number of family members and politicians have been detained, as leaders of Thursday’s military coup tightened their grip on power.

Yingluck Shinawatra and scores of politicians from the deposed government had earlier been ordered to report to the military.

She was kept for several hours and then driven to an undisclosed location.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha also met key officials, telling them reform must come before any elections.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha summoned governors, business leaders and civil servants to the Bangkok Army Club on Friday.

Ousted Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra and a number of family members and politicians have been detained, as leaders of Thursday's military coup tightened their grip on power

Ousted Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra and a number of family members and politicians have been detained, as leaders of Thursday’s military coup tightened their grip on power (photo Reuters)

Six of Thailand’s most senior military officers have now been appointed to run the country, with provincial commanders supervising local government.

Prayuth Chan-ocha told the meeting: “I want all civil servants to help organize the country. We must have economic, social and political reforms before elections. If the situation is peaceful, we are ready to return power to the people.”

The general said the coup was necessary to “quickly bring the situation back to normal”.

One local official leaving the meeting, Arkom Theerasak, told Associated Press: “There will be an election but it will take a while. The general didn’t say when.”

Yingluck Shinawatra, who had been prime minister until being removed by the judiciary this month, had been ordered to report to the military along with more than 100 other politicians, including acting PM Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan.

It was unclear whether Prayuth Chan-ocha met either of them.

Some 155 politicians have been barred from leaving the country.

Reuters quoted a military officer as saying Yingluck Shinawatra, her sister and brother-in-law had been held.

Thai military spokesman Col. Werachon Sukhondhadhpatipak said those detained were all involved in Thailand’s political “conflict” and he stressed the army was neutral and impartial in those that it had held.

Col. Werachon Sukhondhadhpatipak said the detentions should be not be longer than a week and were intended to keep the detainees away from “tension”.

On Thursday the military suspended the constitution and banned political gatherings, saying order was needed after months of turmoil.

The US led widespread international criticism of the coup, saying there was “no justification”.

Thailand’s armed forces have staged at least 12 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.

There has been a power struggle since Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by the military as PM in 2006.

Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra have strong support in rural areas but are opposed by many in the middle class and urban elite.

The latest unrest began last year, when anti-government protesters embarked on a campaign to oust Yingluck Shinawatra. An election was held in February but was disrupted and later annulled by the judiciary.

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Ousted PM Yingluck Shinawatra has appeared at a military facility in Bangkok, a day after Thailand’s army took power in a coup.

Yingluck Shinawatra is one of more than 100 political figures summoned by the army.

The army has banned 155 prominent political figures from leaving the country without permission.

On Thursday the military suspended the constitution, banned gatherings and detained politicians, saying order was needed after months of turmoil.

Yingluck Shinawatra is one of more than 100 political figures summoned by the army

Yingluck Shinawatra is one of more than 100 political figures summoned by the army

On Friday afternoon it appeared Yingluck Shianwatra had left the location where she had been summoned and was going to another military location.

Some pro-government lawmakers have now gone into hiding.

The coup, which followed months of anti-government protests, has drawn widespread international criticism.

It came two days after the army declared martial law.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was “no justification” for the coup, adding that $10 million in bilateral aid could be suspended.

The UN urged a “prompt return to constitutional, civilian, democratic rule”.

Thais, meanwhile, spent the night under a curfew which ran from 22:00 to 05:00. Bangkok was reported to be largely peaceful.

The anti-government movement has claimed victory and sent its supporters home.

Military leader General Prayuth Chan-Ocha – who has appointed himself the new prime minister – said troops were taking power “in order for the country to return to normal quickly”.

“All Thais must remain calm and government officials must work as normal,” he said in a televised address.

Political factions had been holding talks for two days. As soon as the coup was announced, several key figures were detained.

The military then issued a bulletin spelling out the key points of the takeover:

  • Curfew nationwide from 22:00 to 05:00
  • General Prayuth Chan-Ocha to head ruling National Peace and Order Maintaining Council
  • Senate and courts to continue operating
  • 2007 constitution suspended except for chapter on monarchy
  • Political gatherings of more than five people banned, with penalties of up to a one-year jail term, 10,000 baht ($300) fine, or both
  • Social media platforms could be blocked if they carry material with provocative content

Thailand’s army, which has staged at least 12 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, acted after months of political deadlock.

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Thailand’s military has taken control of the government to restore order and enact political reforms in the South-East Asian nation, the army chief has announced in a televised statement.

The coup came after two days of inconclusive talks between the main political factions.

Thailand has been in political turmoil for months. On Tuesday the army imposed martial law.

A curfew has now been declared, effective across the country from 22:00 to 05:00 local time.

Thailand's military has taken control of the government to restore order and enact political reforms

Thailand’s military has taken control of the government to restore order and enact political reforms

Political party leaders were taken away from the talks venue after troops sealed off the area.

The army is to send troops and vehicles to escort protesters away from rally sites, a senior army official told the Reuters news agency.

The latest unrest began in the Thai capital late last year, when then-PM Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the lower house of parliament.

Demonstrators have blockaded several areas of Bangkok for months.

Earlier this month, a court ordered Yingluck Shinawatra’s removal for alleged abuse of power.

Thailand has faced a power struggle since Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by the military as prime minister in 2006.

Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra have strong support in rural areas and among poorer voters.

They are hated by an urban and middle-class elite who accuse them of corruption and abuse of power.

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Three people died and more than 20 others have been injured in an attack on an anti-government protest camp in Bangkok, Thai officials say.

Witnesses reported explosions and gunfire early on Thursday at a protest camp at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument.

Protesters have been pressing the Senate to replace the cabinet with an appointed administration.

Witnesses reported explosions and gunfire early on Thursday at a protest camp at Bangkok's Democracy Monument

Witnesses reported explosions and gunfire early on Thursday at a protest camp at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument

Later on Thursday, they forced a meeting between the government and the Election Commission to be abandoned.

The government is trying to organize a new general election in July, after protesters disrupted the previous election in parts of the country.

A crowd led by Suthep Thaugsuban, head of the anti-government movement, broke into the Air Force base where the meeting between acting PM Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan and the commission was being held.

“The meeting is over, the prime minister is leaving. We cannot continue today,” a member of the commission was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

The Election Commission on Thursday has called for polls to be postponed due to the political unrest, AFP news agency says, citing officials.

The attack on protesters comes days after former PM Yingluck Shinawatra was removed by a Thai court.

Reports said grenades were thrown in the latest attack in the early hours of Thursday, followed by gunfire. A doctor at an emergency centre in Bangkok said the wounded had been hit by shrapnel.

Police identified two of the victims as a protester who was asleep and a protest guard who was shot.

There have been a number of attacks on the protest movement since it began its street campaign against the government last year.

No group has said it carried out the attack but both pro- and anti-government groups are known to have armed hardliners.

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Supporters of Yingluck Shinawatra’s government are gathering in western Bangkok for what they are calling a rally in support of Thailand’s democracy.

Earlier this week, a court ordered PM Yingluck Shinawatra and nine ministers to step down.

Thousands of police are on standby as opposition protesters are also planning a march in the capital.

Supporters of Yingluck Shinawatra’s government are gathering in western Bangkok for what they are calling a rally in support of Thailand’s democracy

Supporters of Yingluck Shinawatra’s government are gathering in western Bangkok for what they are calling a rally in support of Thailand’s democracy (photo AP)

Yingluck Shianwatra’s removal came after six months of protests which have unnerved investors and reduced tourist numbers.

Thailand has faced a power struggle since 2006, when Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted as prime minister by a military coup, accused of corruption and abuse of power.

Their Pheu Thai party has a strong base of support with rural voters. Its supporters are known colloquially as “red shirts”.

Opposition supporters – dubbed “yellow shirts” – tend to be urban and middle class. They have been protesting against Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration for six months, occupying official buildings and disrupting elections in February.

Yingluck Shinawatra was ordered to step down on Wednesday over the illegal transfer of her security chief. Another court has indicted her for negligence.

A caretaker government led by Thaksin Shianwatra loyalist Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan is running the country and says it is working towards a July 20 election.

The opposition says it will not contest the polls and that political reforms must be introduced first.

On Friday, a rally of “yellow shirts” ended with police firing tear gas and water cannon. At least five demonstrators were injured.

At least 25 people have died over the course of the protests in Thailand.

Thai anti-graft body has indicted ousted PM Yingluck Shinawatra over a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

The case will now be voted on at the Senate. If impeached, Yingluck Shinawatra will be barred from politics for five years.

On Wednesday, a Thai court ordered Yingluck Shinawatra and several cabinet ministers to step down over separate charges.

Thailand has been in political turmoil since anti-government protests erupted in November 2013. In February, snap elections were annulled.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) unanimously voted to indict Yingluck Shinawatra, the commission’s chief said on Thursday.

“The committee has investigated and there is enough evidence to make a case … We will now forward it to the Senate,” Panthep Klanarong said.

Thai anti-graft body has indicted ousted PM Yingluck Shinawatra over a controversial rice subsidy scheme

Thai anti-graft body has indicted ousted PM Yingluck Shinawatra over a controversial rice subsidy scheme

The NACC is also considering whether to file criminal charges against Yingluck Shinawatra.

Yingluck Shinawatra has previously said she was only in charge of formulating the policy, not the day-to-day running of the scheme, and has said that the commission treated her unfairly.

Under the rice subsidy scheme, the government bought rice from Thai farmers at a much higher price than on the global market.

However, it resulted in the accumulation of huge stockpiles of rice and hit Thailand’s rice exports hard.

Critics said the scheme was too expensive and vulnerable to corruption.

Separately, on Wednesday, Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled that Yingluck Shinawatra acted illegally when she transferred her national security head to another position in 2011.

Yingluck Shinawatra stepped down, and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan replaced her as prime minister.

Her supporters believe the courts are biased against her.

Yingluck Shinawatra leads the ruling Pheu Thai Party, which won elections in 2011.

It commands strong support from rural voters, especially in Thailand’s north and north-east.

However, anti-government protesters, who tend to be urban and middle-class voters, have protested against Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration for months, occupying official buildings and disrupting elections in February.

They say ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who is also Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, is still controlling the government, and that the ruling party has been buying votes with irresponsible spending pledges aimed at its support base.

Both sides have planned rallies this week, and there are fears that clashes could occur.

Thailand’s government has scheduled elections for July 20 after the February vote was declared unconstitutional.

However, the opposition says it will not contest the polls and that political reforms need to be introduced first.

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Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled that PM Yingluck Shinawatra must step down over abuse of power charges.

The court ruled that Yingluck Shinawatra acted illegally when she transferred her national security head.

It has also ruled that some cabinet ministers involved in the transfer must also step down.

The ruling follows months of political deadlock. Anti-government protesters have been trying to oust Yingluck Shinawatra since November 2013.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled that PM Yingluck Shinawatra must step down over abuse of power charges

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled that PM Yingluck Shinawatra must step down over abuse of power charges (photo Reuters)

The move is likely to trigger protests by supporters of the government, which remains very popular in rural areas.

PM Yingluck Shinawatra had been accused of improperly transferring Thawil Pliensri, her national security chief appointed by the opposition-led administration, in 2011.

Appearing court on Tuesday, she had rejected the suggestion that Yingluck Shinawatra’s party had benefited from the move – but the court ruled against her.

“The prime minister’s status has ended, Yingluck can no longer stay in her position acting as caretaker prime minister,” a judge said in a statement.

It is not yet clear whether one of Yingluck Shinawatra’s ministers can step in or whether Thailand now faces a political vacuum.

Anti-government protests began in the Thai capital late last year, with demonstrators blockading several parts of the city.

In response, Yingluck Shinawatra called a snap general election in February that her party was widely expected to win. But the protesters disrupted the polls and the election was later annulled.

Her supporters believe that the courts are biased against her and side with the urban elite at the heart of the protest movement.

Thailand has faced a power struggle since Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by the military as prime minister in a 2006 coup.

Thaksin Shinawatra and his family are hated by the urban and middle-class elite who accuse them of corruption and abuse of power.

Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra has appeared before the Constitutional Court in Bangkok to defend herself against allegations of abuse of power.

The complaint was filed by senators who said Yingluck Shinawatra’s party benefited from improperly transferring her national security chief in 2011.

Yingluck Shinawatra could be removed from office and banned from politics for five years if found guilty.

Thailand has seen deadlock since anti-government protests began in 2013.

Yingluck Shinawatra could be removed from office and banned from politics for five years if found guilty of abuse of power

Yingluck Shinawatra could be removed from office and banned from politics for five years if found guilty of abuse of power

The protesters, who are mainly urban and middle class, want Yingluck Shianwatra’s government replaced by an unelected “people’s council”.

In response, Yingluck Shinawatra called a snap election in February which she was expected to win, but this was disrupted by the protesters and subsequently annulled.

The prime minister is also facing several legal challenges.

Earlier this year, a different court ruled that Yingluck Shinawatra had improperly transferred national security chief Thawil Pliensri in 2011.

Thawil Pliensri has since been reinstated, although he was originally appointed by the previous administration and has been openly critical of Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

The Constitutional Court will decide whether his transfer violated the constitution.

“I deny the allegation… I didn’t violate any laws, I didn’t receive any benefit from the appointment,” Yingluck Shinawatra told the court on Tuesday.

She added that replacing Thawil Pliensri was for Thailand’s benefit.

Yingluck Shinawatra also faces charges of negligence over a government rice subsidy scheme which critics say was rife with corruption.

Her supporters believe the top courts are biased against her and the cases are an attempt by the elite to force her from office.

Last week, Yingluck Shinawatra’s government announced fresh polls on July 20, but the opposition has rejected the date.

Thailand’s opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for elections scheduled for July to be pushed back by up to six months.

In a 10-point package of proposals, Abhisit Vejjajiva said PM Yingluck Shinawatra and her government should resign, allowing an interim cabinet to oversee a referendum on reforms.

Yingluck Shinawatra has not responded to the proposals yet.

Thailand has been in political deadlock since anti-government protests began in Bangkok in November 2013.

Yingluck Shinawatra’s government announced the July 20 polls after a previous snap election in February was declared unconstitutional.

Thailand's opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for elections scheduled for July to be pushed back by up to six months

Thailand’s opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for elections scheduled for July to be pushed back by up to six months

The ruling Pheu Thai party had been expected to win the February vote. However, the opposition boycotted the polls and protesters disrupted voting.

At the height of the anti-government demonstrations, protesters shut down key road junctions and blockaded government ministries. Their number has since declined.

On Saturday, Abhisit Vejjajiva said his opposition Democrat party would not contest July’s polls.

The main proposals in his 10-point plan are:

  • July’s planned elections are delayed. A reform council drafts a plan of reforms, which are sent for a national referendum
  • The current government resigns and a non-partisan interim government is appointed.
  • Following the national referendum, new elections are held
  • The new elected government must carry out the reform plans. A fresh election will then be held within a year

However, Jarupong Ruangsuwan, leader of the ruling Pheu Thai party, told Reuters news agency: “The government cannot accept Abhisit’s plan because it is outside the framework of the constitution.”

The plan would “only increase divisions in Thai society,” he said, adding: “Asking the government to resign is tantamount to ripping up the constitution.”

Abhisit Vejjajiva acknowledged that he and his Democrat party were partly responsible for the political mess Thailand was in, and said he was offering a way out.

Yingluck Shinawatra faces a court verdict next week which could result in her being barred from politics for five years, a result her supporters say they would view as tantamount to a coup.

Pheu Thai party and Yingluck Shinawatra remain very popular in rural areas.

Thailand’s pro-government Red Shirt movement has warned that any attempt to oust PM Yingluck Shinawatra could trigger a civil war.

The movement’s leaders issued the warning at a rally outside Bangkok – the first staged by the Red Shirts near the capital since violent clashes broke out in November.

Opponents of Yingluck Shinawatra and her party have filed legal cases against her.

Months of anti-government mass protests have failed to unseat her.

Speaking to a crowd of tens of thousands, Jatuporn Promphan, the chairman of the pro-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), said judicial institutions were trying “to take over power without elections”.

“What we are most concerned about – that we want to warn all sides against – is a civil war, which we do not want to happen,” he said.

“It will happen if there is a coup and democracy is stolen.”

Yingluck Shinawatra’s supporters say they are holding the rally to deter her opponents from attempts to oust her

Yingluck Shinawatra’s supporters say they are holding the rally to deter her opponents from attempts to oust her

Speaking to a crowd of tens of thousands, Jatuporn Promphan, the chairman of the pro-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), said judicial institutions were trying “to take over power without elections”.

“What we are most concerned about – that we want to warn all sides against – is a civil war, which we do not want to happen,” he said.

“It will happen if there is a coup and democracy is stolen.”

Yingluck Shinawatra is facing mounting legal cases – including charges of neglect of duty and abuse of power – that correspondents say could see her removed from office in coming weeks.

Meanwhile anti-government protesters have continued their own demonstrations from their headquarters in Bangkok’s central Lumpini Park.

The government called an election in February, but that was obstructed by protesters.

Since then Thailand has been in a state of paralysis.

Yingluck Shinawatra’s party has won the last five elections, but her opponents argue that Thailand’s democracy is so deeply flawed that it must be reformed before another election can be held.

Another factor driving the conflict is acute anxiety over the ailing health of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The Red Shirts at Saturday’s rally openly showed support for his son Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. He is the designated heir but some among traditional elite are believed to oppose him.

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Thailand’s anti-government protesters have resumed demonstrations in Bangkok demanding the resignation of PM Yingluck Shinawatra.

Large crowds carrying Thai flags marched along several routes from the main park in Bangkok.

It was the first major protest rally to take place since a Thai court ruled the February 2 general election invalid.

Until recently, Thailand had seen an ease in tensions since anti-government demonstrations began four months ago.

Anti-government activists want PM Yingluck Shinawatra to step down and the political system to be reformed.

At the height of the demonstrations, which began in November, protesters shut down key road junctions in Bangkok and blockaded government ministries.

Thailand’s anti-government activists want PM Yingluck Shinawatra to step down and the political system to be reformed

Thailand’s anti-government activists want PM Yingluck Shinawatra to step down and the political system to be reformed

Saturday’s demonstrators, led by protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, marched from Bangkok’s Lumpini Park along six different routes through the city centre.

”We want to tell the government that the people don’t accept them anymore and the people really want reform of the country immediately,” Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters.

Suthep Thaugsuban warned the authorities against attempting to organize a re-run of the elections, saying any future poll would be boycotted.

The march comes a week after Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled the February 2 general election invalid.

Yingluck Shinawatra’s ruling party was expected to win the poll, but the opposition boycotted it and protesters disrupted voting, meaning the election has not been completed.

The protesters, who are mainly urban and middle class, want Yingluck Shinawatra’s government replaced by an unelected “people’s council”.

They accuse the Thai government of being run by PM Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother and ousted former leader, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yingluck Shinawatra, who has dismissed calls to step down, is currently facing charges of negligence over a government rice subsidy scheme, which critics say was rife with corruption.

She is expected to submit her defense to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on Monday.

If found guilty, Yingluck Shinawatra could be removed from office and faces a five-year ban from politics.

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Thailand’s February 2 general election has been declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court.

The snap poll was called by PM Yingluck Shinawatra amid major anti-government protests in Bangkok.

The ruling party was expected to win, but the opposition boycotted it and protesters disrupted voting, meaning the election has not been completed.

The vote was unconstitutional because it did not take place on the same day across the country, the court said.

Polls were not held in a number of constituencies because protesters had blocked candidate registration.

Thailand's February 2 general election has been declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court

Thailand’s February 2 general election has been declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court (photo AP)

Thailand’s Constitutional Court, which ruled to void the election by six votes to three, was responding to a motion by a law lecturer who had challenged the election on a number of points.

It is not clear when a new election will be held.

Thailand has been hit by anti-government protests since November 2013.

The protesters, who are mainly urban and middle class, want Yingluck Shinawatra’s government replaced by an unelected “people’s council”.

They allege her brother, ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra, controls her administration and say Shinawatra family money has corrupted Thai politics.

Yingluck Shinawatra and her ruling Pheu Thai party remain very popular in rural areas, however, leaving Thailand deeply polarized.

Thai voting has begun in five provinces that were unable to hold polls in last month’s general election because of anti-government protests.

No disturbances have so far been reported in Sunday’s ballot.

But the election commission said the situation was still too tense in many areas for polls to re-open.

Thailand has been in a political crisis since mass rallies began in November, with protesters calling for PM Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.

They want her government to be replaced by an unelected “people’s council” to reform the political system.

The opposition alleges that money politics have corrupted Thailand’s democracy and that Yingluck Shinawatra is controlled by her brother, ousted former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in self-imposed exile.

Yingluck Shinawatra leads a government that won elections in 2011 with broad support from rural areas

Yingluck Shinawatra leads a government that won elections in 2011 with broad support from rural areas

Protesters marched through Bangkok on Sunday, but there were no signs of voters being prevented from attending polling stations, as had been the case in early February.

“The polls are going peacefully – everything is under control and there are no problems,” a spokesman for the election commissioner said on Sunday.

However, the ballot will still leave too many parliamentary seats unfilled for a new government to be elected.

PM Yingluck Shinawatra is therefore stuck in a caretaker role, giving her cabinet very limited powers to govern.

On Friday, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced that demonstrators would end their occupation of central Bangkok in what was seen as a first sign of flexibility from the prime minister’s opponents.

Talks are also planned next week between representatives from both sides.

Yingluck Shinawatra leads a government that won elections in 2011 with broad support from rural areas. In response to the protests, she called snap elections on February 2, which her government was widely expected to win.

Thailand’s polls were boycotted by the opposition, and voting was disrupted by protesters at around 10% of polling stations.

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