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Thai army chief declares self as PM, meets military personnel

Thailand's army general Prayuth Chan-ocha held a meeting with military personnel in Bangkok on Friday as he reportedly declared himself as the acting prime minister, a day after the army seized power in a bloodless coup.

BANGKOK: Thailand's army general Prayuth Chan-ocha held a meeting with military personnel in Bangkok on Friday as he reportedly declared himself as the acting prime minister, a day after the army seized power in a bloodless coup.

The Bangkok Post reported that Prayuth will be the interim premier for administrative purposes, until the coup regime can find someone to serve the post full time, citing the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council.

Prayuth met the military personnel to explain the role of the army following the coup, the military channel said in a news bulletin.

The meeting with the military was one of many that Prayuth has chaired during the day.

He has also met former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and former ministers as well as civil servants and officials of state-owned enterprises.

Thai TV stations remain shut and cable television off air a day after the coup.

However, intermittently, the Thai military has been airing news bulletins on all channels, broadcasting news of events that are taking place around the country.

Yingluck and Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, both now former prime ministers, reported to the military on Friday morning amid tight security.

A number of other former ministers were also driven in their official cars to the army's auditorium in Bangkok's historic quarter after being summoned.

More than a hundred people, including ministers and leaders of the pro- and anti-government groups, were ordered to report to the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council, which was set up by the military coup leaders. They were also banned from leaving the country.

The military forces ordered supporters of the anti- and pro-government movement, who had demonstrated in different parts of the city, to return home.

A few hundred protesters boarded trains and buses on Friday to return to their homes, mostly in the northeast for government supporters and in the south for anti-government protesters.

Protest sites of the rival groups, whose street rallies had raised fears of clashes and violent confrontations, were dismantled on Friday, while bomb disposal teams searched for hidden explosive devices.

Thais awoke to a radically different political landscape on Friday with few real clues about what the future might hold after the armed forces seized power in a coup the day before.

Schools were closed and traffic was unusually light after an overnight curfew was lifted at 5am.

The army's own Channel 5 network broadcast on all channels, interviewing citizens professing to be happy and relieved by the upheaval.

Footage showed armed soldiers patrolling train stations and inspecting pickup trucks carrying shipments of limes, oranges and other fruits in the northeast of Thailand, where support for the ousted, populist government remains strongest.

The military regime also suspended most of the constitution, drawing rebukes from Washington, Europe and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who all called for civilian control to be restored.

Secretary of State John Kerry said there was "no justification" for a coup that would have "negative implications" for US relations, and demanded early elections. The Pentagon said it was reviewing military cooperation with America's oldest ally in Asia.

Thailand's democratic development has now been interrupted by 19 actual or attempted coups since 1932, interventions that traditionally require the monarchy's approval.

It was unclear whether the palace had blessed Prayuth's coup.

Some observers see the crisis as a struggle to decide who will run the country when the more than six-decade reign of ailing, 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej eventually ends.

Experts say the junta could run the country for at least one year -- like after the 2006 coup -- during which time a new constitution would be drawn up to curb the political dominance of Thaksin and his allies.

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