Thai army detains ex-PM Yingluck

Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha

Thai army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was due to be retiring in September, but following Thursday's dramatic coup he is now in effective control of the country as head of the army body that has replaced the government.

Gen Prayuth took over as head of the army in October 2010 and was seen as a staunch royalist, having favoured favouring a tough stance against the "Red Shirt" protest movement supporting populist former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the government of his sister Yingluck.

After taking over, Gen Prayuth said that he wanted the army to remain neutral, but some of actions prompted questions over whether he was intervening in politics.

The pressure group Human Rights Watch has said he had been "interfering" into an investigation into deadly political protests in 2010.

In May 2011, a prominent opposition MP and Red Shirt leader, Jatuporn Promphan, was imprisoned after being charged with making comments deemed to be disrespectful of the monarchy - a very serious offence in Thailand.

The case against him was prompted by a complaint from Gen Prayuth. He insisted at the time that his motive was not political but rather to protect the monarchy.

However, questions were again raised when in June 2011 he appealed for voters to back "good people" in that year's elections, in what was widely interpreted as a swipe at Ms Yingluck and her Pheu Thai party.

It nevertheless swept to power, winning a majority in parliament.

Pheu Thai had worked hard to cultivate good relations with Gen Prayuth and the other top echelons of the Thai military, and when there were mass protests last autumn over a controversial amnesty law Pheu Thai had proposed, he stayed silent on the issue.

However, as the protests dragged on, he proposed a "people's council" of civilians from both sides of the political divide.

Months of political conflict now seem to have forced Gen Prayuth's hand, with his statement saying he was reacting to "the violence in Bangkok and many parts of the country that resulted in loss of innocent lives and property, [which] was likely to escalate".

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