The Thai general who launched the coup and seized power is to due to receive official approval from the country’s king as the junta seeks to cement its position amid mounting protests and criticism.
Reports said Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha would receive a royal command, formally appointing him head of the so-called National Council for Peace and Order, the name the junta has given itself. The oddly precise time of 10.49am has been fixed for the ceremony, raising speculation that this is considered an auspicious moment on the clock.
The approval from Thailand’s ailing, 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej would mark the final outstanding box to be ticked by Gen. Prayuth, who has forced out the government, detained politicians and academics and dissolved the upper house of the parliament. He has also transferred senior police and investigative personnel as the junta’s grip has tightened. Several journalists are being detained, among them Pravit Rojanaphruk, a leading columnist with The Nation newspaper.
The announcement from the junta came as small groups of anti-coup protesters continued to demonstrate in Bangkok, carrying placards and shouting at troops blocking their way to “go home”. The protests have so far been modest in size, but demonstrators have been using social media to organise locations and routes.
Thailand protests: Thai army declares martial law
Thailand protests: Thai army declares martial law
A Thai soldier stands in front of a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he patrols near government buildings in Bangkok
A pro-government protester points at a soldier during a cleanup at a pro-government demonstration site on the outskirts of Bangkok
Thai soldiers patrol near government buildings in Bangkok
A soldier walks past barefoot Buddhist monks begging for alms outside a temple near Government House in Bangkok
Thai police and army soldiers stand guard outside a military compound before former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives to report to Thailand's ruling military in Bangkok
Thai soldiers stand guard at a roadblock outside the Defence Ministry building (background) after Thailand's army chief announced that the armed forces were seizing power in Bangkok
Thai soldiers patrol after army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha met with anti-government and pro-government leaders at the Army Club in Bangkok
Thai police and military display a haul of weapons seized during recent raids since the imposition of martial law, at a press conference at the Army Club in Bangkok
Thai soldiers stand next to the portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej after the declaration of martial law at the Army Club in Bangkok. Thai Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, declared martial law giving the military full control to prevent further protest-related violence in the country
Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban (R) gives a traditional greeting to a soldier before leaving Government House in Bangkok. Thailand's army chief said rival political groups should talk to each other and that the martial law imposed would last until peace and order had been restored
A Thai soldier stands outside the Government Public Relations Department in Bangkok
Thai soldiers man a checkpoint near pro-government "red shirt" supporters encampment in suburbs of Bangkok
(L-R) Thai Police Chief Adul Saengsingkaew, Navy Chief Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha and Air Chief Marshall Prachin Chantong during a meeting at the Army Club in Bangkok. Thailand has been wracked by six months of non-stop protests seeking to topple the government. At least 25 people have died in political-related violence and more than 700 injured
Motorists on their way as Thai soldiers take to the streets with a heavy machine gun on a Humvee military vehicle at a main road outside the Royal Thai Police Sports Club in Bangkok
Outside police headquarters in Bangkok
An anti-government protester waves a Thai national flag during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok. Thailand's Senate said it was ready to choose an interim prime minister to end a political deadlock but stopped short of throwing out a beleaguered caretaker government and risking a violent backlash by its supporters
Thai anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally in front of the Parliament as senators debate to find and end to the country's political conflict in Bangkok. Thousands of anti-government protesters rallied the area surrounding parliament and Government House to pressure the Senate to appoint an interim government to institute political reforms before new elections while key Thai institutions are resisting the opposition's demands
Thai anti-government protesters gather in front of the Parliament in Bangkok
Thai riot policemen stand guard during an anti-government protest rally at the Air Force auditorium in Bangkok. Thailand's Election Commission called for the postponement of key parliamentary polls due to be held on 20 July 2014 because of political unrest shaking the kingdom
Anti-government protesters leave an air force base after breaking into its grounds in Bangkok. Protesters seeking to oust Thailand's government broke into the grounds of an air force compound where the acting prime minister was meeting the Election Commission to fix a date for new polls, forcing him to flee
Thai Air Force military (L) face anti-government protesters after they broke into the Royal Thai Air Force base in Bangkok. Hundreds of anti-government protesters broke into the meeting between the election commission and the caretaker government as they discussed for the planned next elections on 15 May 2014, after the results of the 02 February general elections were annulled. According to media reports, Thailand's Election Commission said that the 20 July polling is no longer possible due to political turmoil
Thai anti-government protesters leader Suthep Thaugsuban (C-L) cheers his followers during a street rally march toward Government House and Parliament in Bangkok
An anti-government protester (C) gives instructions to a fellow protester on how to wave a huge Thai flag from atop a barricade near the Government House in Bangkok. Thailand's beleaguered government warned people to stay away from anti-government protests, saying it had to step up security as the two sides in a lengthy political crisis squared off over who is running the country
An anti-government protester looks at a damaged telephone booth after a grenade attack at a protest site outside Government House in Bangkok. Supporters of Thailand's embattled government warned the country's judiciary and Senate against any attempt to install an unelected prime minister, saying it would be a disaster for the nation that could spark civil war
Anti-government protesters making a fist and waving a giant Thai flag, the symbol of the protest, on top of a truck as they rally outside Thai Parliament in a call for the final battle in Bangkok. Protesters marched on many key sites in Bangkok, police fired tear gas and some protesters have been injured. Protest leaders say they are hoping to strike the final blow at the weakened government and usher in a people's council to reform the government
At Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong intersection, a 65-year-old woman called Pranwee said was determined that the soldiers back down and restore democracy.
A supporter of the ousted government, headed by the Phua Thai party of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, she had been among protesters who had seized control of the busy intersection four years ago to demonstrate against the previous administration. More than 90 people were killed. “In my life, I cannot count the number of times there has been a coup,” she said.
At one point, the army used loud-speakers and played military songs in an apparent attempt to move the protesters. One of the songs contained the words “we are all Thai people together”. When the song was played, the protesters hissed.
Later, the protesters moved to the city’s Democracy Monument where the demonstrations continued. It appeared that while perhaps 1,000 or so demonstrators were carrying signs and chanting, many of the onlookers may also have supported the protest too.
The protesters were breaking orders from the junta that no more than five people gathered together without permission. Yet, while there were some scuffles with the soldiers and while the mood was tense, no-one appeared to have been seriously hurt in Sunday’s protests.
“This is the coup. How can they shut off our ears, our mouths, our breathing,” said Kitty Limb, a retired government employee who had travelled from the town of Hua Hin, two hours away, for the protest. “I don’t know how to get back democracy. But if everybody comes and fights for democracy we will shame the junta. I have no weapons.”
The international criticism of the junta has been swift. The US, an important partner of the Thai military, announced it was suspending military aid and pulling out of an exercise. Secretary of State John Kerry has called for the prompt restoration of civilian rule and the release of the more than 100 people who have been detained, among them former premier Yingluck Shinawatra, the brother of Mr Thaksin. The US has also called for “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
A spokesman for the junta claimed that democracy had brought losses for Thailand. “For international issues, another difference is that democracy in Thailand has resulted in losses, which is definitely different from other countries and which is another detail we will clarify,” said army spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree, according to the Associated Press.
Thailand has been reeling from political turmoil since Mr Thaksin was ousted in a previous coup in 2006. Since then, several governments allied with him have been elected but have been ousted by a controversial court set up after he was pushed out. His sister, Ms Yingluck, was elected in 2011 but forced out by the same court two weeks ago.
The political divisions tearing at the fabric of Thailand are complex, and have a number of factors. Many of the people who support Mr Thaksin say policies helped raise their standard of living. That has coincided with growing awareness of both their political rights and their political power.
By contrast, many of those who led protests against the government over the last six months and which were used by the military as an excuse for their actions, want to reduce the use of elections and have appointed leaders instead. Many of these protesters are business people from Bangkok and the establishment that surrounds the monarchy.