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Thai Military Detains Ousted Prime Minister, Bans Negative Press

Thai soldiers patrol on a scooter Friday near the Democracy Monument in Bangkok. Thailand's ruling military summoned leaders of the ousted government to meetings today. Restrictions on TV broadcasts have led Thai citizens to ask for more variety.
Apichart Weerawong

One day after staging a coup, Thailand's military summoned leaders of the ousted government and other political figures to a meeting Friday. More than 150 people were ordered to convene at the Royal Thai Army auditorium — or risk arrest and possible charges.

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET: Ousted PM Yingluck Detained

Thailand's army has detained deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after holding meetings with her and other politicians. She has reportedly been taken to an army base, along with members of her family who were also in the government.

"We have detained Yingluck, her sister and brother-in-law," a senior military officer tells Reuters. "We will do so for not more than week — that would be too long. We just need to organize matters in the country first."

The Associated Press reports, "By nightfall, dozens of the VIPs who turned themselves in were still being held, although at least eight ex-Cabinet ministers had been released."

Thailand's new military rulers had earlier forbidden Yingluck and other former officials from leaving the country.

Our original post continues:

Since taking power, the army has installed rules meant to restore peace and quell opposition, from a public curfew to limits on news coverage.

"The army has warned the media not to disseminate any information challenging the army decision to take power in order to 'restore order,' " reporter Michael Sullivan tells NPR from Bangkok.

The military junta also told 76 Internet service providers that "all news carried on the Internet must be 'correct' and the information must not be 'distorted' or likely to 'provoke people,' " reports the Phuket News.

But the rule that's provoking the most pushback is one governing TV.

"Thai television stations remain off the air or limited to playing patriotic music," Michael says. "There's no word on when regular programming will be allowed to resume."

That restriction led many to take to Facebook, where they critiqued the TV musical offerings from the new ruling junta, which calls itself the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council. They asked for more variety — and perhaps for a children's TV channel to be restored.

From the AP:

" 'Since you're reforming politics, you might as well reform your music,' said one of many postings on the page, which had over 210,000 likes by Friday afternoon, up exponentially from earlier in the day.

"Song requests poured in — for Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, the Disney hit 'Let It Go,' and for foot-tapping Thai folk music.

" 'Please give us something more uplifting,' said another comment on the page."

The coup — Thailand's first since the military seized control in 2006 — has not brought reports of any large-scale violence; the streets in Bangkok are reportedly quieter than usual.

From Bangkok, Michael sent this update to our Newscast unit:

"Schools are closed not just in the capital, but all over the country. Public gatherings of more than five people have been banned, and the army says there will be a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew again this evening.

"Both pro- and anti-government demonstrators are packing up their protest sites and being bused out of the city. The army has also summoned dozens of people it wants to question, including several former government ministers and the recently deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra."

Shinawatra reported to the army meeting as ordered, according to The Bangkok Post, which says she "arrived at the Royal Thai Army auditorium in Thewes in a black bullet-proof Volkswagen van, with a vanguard of bodyguards."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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