Soldiers fired into the air to disperse thousands of pro-government "red shirt" activists gathered at a protest site in Bangkok's western outskirts.
BANGKOK, THAILAND (NBC) - A full military coup was underway in Thailand on Thursday as the country’s army chief declared he was taking control from rival political groups and imposing an overnight curfew.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha made the announcement in a televised broadcast carried on all TV channels at 5:00 p.m. local time (6:00 a.m. ET), shortly after an unsuccessful meeting of rival factions aimed at finding a solution to six months of anti-government protests.
Soldiers fired into the air to disperse thousands of pro-government "red shirt" activists gathered at a protest site in Bangkok's western outskirts. At least one of the protest leaders was detained, said a spokesman for the activists, Thanawut Wichaidit.
At one rally site near a building housing the seat of government, protesters heeded troops calls to go home and dispersed for the first time since Thailand's political crisis erupted six months ago, according to The Associated Press.
The full takeover comes after the army declared martial law on Tuesday to restore order, but insisted then that the move was not a copu.
Prayuth said the takeover would not affect international relations. Later, the army announced it had suspended the country's constitution.
Thai television stations were reportedly showing no programming, but international stations including CNN and BBC World were available as normal.
A senior army official said troops and vehicles would be used to escort rival protesters away from their rally sites in separate locations in Bangkok.
"We will send troops and vehicles to help protesters leave all rally sites," General Teerachai Nakwanit, First Regional Army Commander, told Reuters.