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Thailand crisis talks fail to resolve political stalemate

AFP

A meeting called by Thailand’s army chief on Wednesday failed to resolve the deadlock between key political rivals, plunging the country into even deeper turmoil a day after the military imposed martial law.

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Many of the country’s highest-profile political figures were summoned to the meeting, including the acting prime minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan – who sent four representatives in his place – anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and Suthep’s rival from the pro-government Red Shirt group, Jatuporn Prompan.

Also summoned were leaders of the ruling Pheu Thai party and the opposition Democrat Party, as well as the five-member Election Commission and representatives from the Senate.

But the bitter political enemies on Wednesday failed to agree on a solution to exit the crisis. New talks are now expected to be held on Thursday.

Prayuth invoked the military’s expanded powers Tuesday and issued more than a dozen edicts that included broad powers of censorship over the media, the Internet and vaguely defined threats to prosecute opponents.

Martial law ‘brought political opponents together’

The military insisted that it imposed martial law not to seize power, but to prevent violence and restore stability in the deeply divided country. Prayuth told a news conference Tuesday that without martial law, the political opponents would never have come together to broker peace.

“That’s why martial law was needed, or else who would listen?” said Prayuth. “If I call them in, they have to come.”

Despite Tuesday’s declaration by the army, the leader of the anti-government movement vowed to continue the protests.

"Martial law does not affect our civil uprising ... We still retain our right to demonstrate against this tyrannical government," Suthep said in a speech to supporters.

The army action came a day after Niwattumrong refused to step down from his caretaker role, resisting pressure from a group of senators calling for a new interim government with full power to conduct political reforms.

It also followed threats by anti-government protesters to intensify their campaign to oust the ruling party, and an attack last week on protesters that killed three people and injured over 20.

The military, which has staged 11 successful coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, is widely seen as sympathetic to the protesters seeking to oust the current government.

Thailand has been stuck in political limbo since Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine of her ministers were dismissed on May 7 after a court found them guilty of abuse of power.

Thailand’s political crisis began in 2006, when Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Since then, there have been regular clashes between the royalist establishment and supporters of the Shinawatra family.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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