Thailand's military rulers detained former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday, a senior officer said, after summoning her for talks a day after the army overthrew her caretaker government in a coup.
As the army moved to consolidate its grip on the country, its chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, set out his plans for the country, saying reforms were needed before an election. But some Thais defied martial law to protest against the takeover.
Prayuth launched his coup after rival factions refused to give ground in a struggle for power between the royalist establishment and Yingluck's populist government that had raised fears of serious violence and damaged the economy.
"We have detained Yingluck, her sister and brother-in-law," a senior military officer told Reuters. The two relatives have held top political posts.
"We will do so for not more than week, that would be too long. We just need to organise matters in the country first," said the officer who declined to be identified.
He declined to say where Yingluck was being held, but media said she was at an army base in Saraburi province, north of Bangkok. Soldiers detained politicians from both sides on Thursday after Prayuth announced the military takeover, which drew swift international condemnation.
In what appeared to be a coordinated operation to neutralise possible opposition to the coup, the military summoned the ousted Yingluck to a meeting and then banned her and 154 others, including politicians and activists, from leaving Thailand.
Yingluck is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon turned politician who won huge support among the poor but the loathing of the royalist establishment, largely over accusations of corruption and nepotism. He was ousted as premier in a 2006 military coup.
Responding to the summons, Yingluck arrived at an army facility at noon along with other politicians. An aide to a minister in the ousted government who declined to be identified said some people, including his minister, had been detained. A former aide to Yingluck said she been out of telephone contact for hours.
Yingluck was forced to step down as prime minister by a court on May 7 but her caretaker government, buffeted by more than six months of protests against it, had remained nominally in power, even after the army declared martial law on Tuesday.
The coup has drawn 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.
Southeast Asian neighbours urged caution, with Malaysia warning its nationals to defer non-essential travel to Thailand.
Japan, Thailand's biggest foreign investor, called for a "prompt restoration of a democratic political system".
The military briefed diplomats yesterday though some declined the invitation, apparently as a gesture of disapproval.
The military has censored the media, dispersed rival protesters and imposed a nationwide 10:00pm to 5:00am curfew.
The military suspended television and radio broadcasts on Thursday and made channels broadcast its material, but six free-to-air channels came back on the air late yesterday.
Several satellite channels including partisan ones on both sides, remained banned. International news channels were off the air and the military threatened to block provocative websites.
The armed forces have a long history of intervening in politics - there have been 18 previous successful or attempted coups since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.
Bangkok was mostly calm and life appeared normal but there was some opposition to the takeover.
Several hundred people, including students, gathered in a central shopping district despite a ban on protests by five or more people to voice their opposition to military rule. Some held signs saying "No coup" and "Get Out Dictators".
Prayuth is a member of the royalist establishment generally seen as hostile to the Shinawatras, although he tried for months to keep the army out of the strife and to appear even-handed.
The anti-Thaksin protesters had demanded electoral changes that would end the Shinawatras' success at the ballot box. Thaksin or his parties have won every election since 2001.
Thaksin's "red shirt" supporters were angry but said they had no immediate plans for protests, but many political analysts were predicting tension and violence.
Mass protests by Thaksin's well-organised loyalists would be a major test for the military.
In 2010, more than 90 people were killed in clashes, most when the army broke up protests against a pro-establishment government that had taken office after a pro-Thaksin administration was removed by the courts in 2008.