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Thais March Against Coup, Military Continues Crackdown

A friend, center, tries to help as an anti-coup protester, left, is detained by a Thai police officer during a protest on a street in Bangkok, Thailand Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Steve Herman
VOA News

Hundreds of people, some young, some elderly, have taken to the streets of Bangkok to demonstrate against the military coup in Thailand.

Protesters carried signs on pieces of paper both in Thai and English such as “we want elections”, “Election is Peace”, and “Junta get out.”

The protesters, led by young men on motorcycles, tried to march to the Victory Monument roundabout, but police lined up across the road to block them.

“Today I come, I just come to the bank, but there are so many people... and they also fight against the coup,” an anti-coup marcher said.

In another development today the military junta summoned several dozen more people but this summons to report to army bases goes beyond just political figures. They also include pro-democracy writers and activists, as well as academics.

Meanwhile, Thailand's coup leaders say ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and dozens of others are being held in a safe place and could be detained for up to a week to give them "time to think."

A military spokesman told a news conference Saturday that the move was made to relieve the pressure and to achieve a political compromise between the government and anti-government protesters who have been holding massive street protests.

The whereabouts of the detainees remained unclear Saturday - nearly two days after the Thai army announced its military coup.

As the news conference was being held, demonstrations against the military coup broke out across Bangkok, despite a curfew and a limit to the number of people who can gather in one place.

Under summons by the army, Yingluck and others arrived at a military installation in Bangkok Friday. Military officials were later quoted as saying she is now in custody, and local media said her aides were bringing her personal effects to a military base outside Bangkok. None of the detainees have had outside contact.

The United States has suspended $3.5 million in military aid to Thailand, and says it is reviewing another $7 million in assistance for more cuts.

The U.S. State Department also warned U.S. citizens against non-essential travel to the country.

The Thai military already had banned Yingluck and more than 150 other political figures from leaving Thailand without permission.

It is not clear if the other politicians in custody are in the same location. The country's caretaker prime minister, Niwattumrong Boosongpaisan, was among those summoned by military authorities. Until the bloodless coup, he had been in charge of the kingdom on an acting basis after a court ordered Yingluck to step down earlier this month on charges of nepotism.

Broadcasters in Thailand began resuming normal operations late Friday.

Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-Ocha said the military aims to restore public order and push through political reforms.

Thailand has been wracked by six months of political disputes and sometimes violent demonstrations. Crisis talks between rival political parties broke down early this past week. Nearly 30 people have been killed during anti-government protests.

Thailand's army has staged 12 coups in the last 80 years.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.