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Ousted Thai Prime Minister Released From Army Camp as Anti-Coup Protests Intensify

Yingluck had been detained alongside over 100 people in an undisclosed location since she surrendered herself to the Thai army.
Photo via AP

Thailand's former prime minister has been released from the army camp where she had been held alongside dozens of other political figures since Friday and is "safe," her aide confirmed.

Unconfirmed reports that Yingluck Shinawatra had been freed from military detention on Sunday were contradicted by the aide, who said she had been moved but not freed, according to the Associated Press.

"Ms. Yingluck is still under the military's control, and I have not been informed about her current whereabouts," said the aide, Wim Rungwattnachinda. "She, however, has been out of the army camp that she was held in and she is safe. She has not been freed to go home."


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Yingluck had been detained alongside over 100 people in an undisclosed location since she surrendered herself to the Thai army one day after the Junta seized power in a coup d'etat.

Among those detained were cabinet ministers and anti-government protest leaders, who would be held for up to a week for "time to think," an army spokesman told the Associated Press Saturday.

Thailand military detains former prime minister, bars leaders from leaving the country. Read more here.

On Sunday, thousands showed up for a third day of anti-coup protests, despite being warned earlier not to demonstrate by Thailand's army leader, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who asserted that normal democratic principals are not presently applicable.

Over the weekend, Thailand's military announced it would dissolve the Senate, effectively nixing the country's last democratic fixture and consolidating their control of the country on Saturday by assuming all lawmaking responsibilities.

It is not known why the junta left the Senate intact after dissolving Parliament's lower house and suspending the constitution on Thursday, nor the reason for its sudden turnaround.

Earlier in the week, Prayuth declared martial law across Thailand, but initially denied staging a military coup until Thursday, when he formally acknowledged the country's 12th coup in eight decades and affirmed his status as interim acting Prime Minister.


In a televised broadcast, the junta imposed a 10PM curfew, banned public gatherings of more than five people, began monitoring Internet use to crackdown on intentions to incite political unrest and severely restricted traditional reporting of the fallout.

Shortly after Prayuth's broadcast on Thursday, a media blackout was extended to television stations across the capital, and in homes, channels were replaced with static TV screens accompanied by soothing Thai music.

Troops were reported to be patrolling Bangkok and had secured TV stations across the capital.

Thai citizens have been active in documenting the evolving political situation on social media. Some reported feeling safe while walking the streets before curfew, while others took selfies with soldiers as they stood beside hummers and carried machine guns by the side of the road.

A Bangkok bar owner whose business has been directly affected by the curfews told VICE News on Saturday he expects the restrictions to last less than a week.

"I have nothing against the coup, I think it's a good thing," said Phurin Oey Phongsobhon, 28. "I've experienced three coups before here and it feels almost safer when the military is running things."

Phonsobhon identified himself as a "royalist" and supported the military in their effort to "shut down and restart the corrupted system" that he said has gripped Thailand since the country's last coup in 2006, which saw the ousting of Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra.


The complex consequences of Thai coup selfies. Read more here.

The military staunchly defended their position to step in after a period of political stalemate. Prayuth said the controlling measures were aimed at hampering more violence and protests in Thailand's ongoing political struggle which pits the elected populist government supported by the country's rural poor majority against anti-government demonstrators bolstered by the country's elite.

Earlier this month Yingluck was removed from office following a corruption hearing on abuse of power charges, which the former leader still denies. Meanwhile, Thaksin, who has maintained support in the rural north due to populist policies like providing virtually free healthcare, has maintained influence on every elected party in Thailand since 2001.

For the past six months, the country has continued to suffer political unrest sparked by anti-government protests that killed 28 and injured more than 800 people.

On Friday, hundreds of anti-coup activists from both camps returned to the streets, rallying outside the Bangkok arts and cultural center in defiance of the new anti-gathering rules. At least three demonstrators were arrested and the crowd dispersed after soldiers were captured on video pushing protestors away from the center.

Journalists and activists have continued to upload footage of protests to social media, despite the warnings.


Anti-coup demonstrations resumed Saturday morning and continued into late Sunday, with protesters amassing near Bangkok's Victory Monument carrying placards reading, "Junta get out" and "No coup."

Meanwhile, Thailand's military has faced widespread international condemnation about the takeover, including from the US, which has suspended $3.5 million in military aid to Thailand, the State Department announced Friday.

Washington further called on Saturday for the "the immediate restoration of civilian rule and release of detained political leaders, a return to democracy through early elections, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields