Thai soldiers on patrol after army chief General Prayut Chan-ocha met with anti-government and pro-government leaders at the Army Club in Bangkok on May 22. / Pornchai Kittiwongsakakul, AFP/Getty Images
The USA is reviewing its assistance to Thailand in the wake of a coup declared by Thailand's army chief Thursday.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha announced the coup on television, flanked by military leaders and the Thai police chief, as security forces detained key party leaders and suspended the constitution in what he said was a bid to restore order and institute political reform after six months of political chaos and violence.
Secretary of State John Kerry called for a restoration of democracy and expressed concern about reports of detentions and the shutdown of media outlets.
"This act will have negative implications for the U.S.â??Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military," Kerry said. "We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law."
That review encompasses up to $10 million in U.S. assistance to Thailand, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington Thursday afternoon. U.S. law prohibits U.S. government assistance to countries where elected officials are deposed by the military.
The full-blown coup - the 12th since 1932 - came three days after the military had invoked martial law over the political stalemate that followed the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over corruption charges on May 7.
The statement said Prayuth would head a ruling military body - the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council - but that the upper house of parliament and courts would continue to operate.
The army ordered acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan and his cabinet to begin reporting immediately to the military "in order to keep peace and order."
The ousted prime minister's billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile, was also removed from power, in a military coup in 2006.
The army chief also imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and ordered an immediate halt to all non-military broadcasts on radio and TV.
In addition, the military also ordered all protesters to go home and banned "political gatherings" of more than five people. Shortly after the coup announcement, soldiers began clearing the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) rally site in the capital.
Political leaders holding seven-party crisis talks at the Army Club were taken off by members of the 1st Division, King's Guard, stationed nearby, who also sealed off the area, the Bangkok Post reports. The political leaders were attempting, for the second straight day, to chart a path forward after the prime minister stepped down.
All key participants at the talks, except the representatives of the Senate and Election Commission, were taken by vans guarded by humvees to the barracks, the newspaper said.
Initial public reaction to the coup announcement initially was muted as opposition forces weighed their response.
"NOW it is COUP - stand by for a retaliation from the UDD," the Red Shirts, a group still loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, said over Twitter as the news broke Thursday, although there have been no reports of violence and Prayuth urged the public not to panic.
Bangkok's streets were jammed as motorists hurried home to meet the curfew.
"I'm angry," said Pakornsit Kongkaew, a taxi driver waiting for one last fare before heading home in the swiftly emptying Bangkok streets. "Many people go to vote, but just a few people come to take control of their country. We are like dogs."
The army chief said that the military would "provide protection" for foreigners in Thailand.
Opponents in Thailand's polarizing political crisis had been meeting Thursday for a second round of talks mediated by Prayuth, who had summoned the bitter rivals in a bid to end the turmoil.
Many of the country's highest-profile figures were summoned for the meeting including the acting prime minister, who sent cabinet ministers in his place, and the anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, as well as Suthep's rival from the pro-government Red Shirt group, Jatuporn Prompan.
Contributing: Thomas Maresca in Bangkok; The Associated Press
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