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News Wrap: Thailand’s military stages coup

May 22, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Thailand’s military seized power, dissolved the government, and suspended the constitution today. The coup followed months of political violence and deadlock.

Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports.

JONATHAN MILLER: Thailand tonight. As soldiers cleared streets, Bangkok’s residents rushed home before 10:00 p.m. curfew, reports of panicked buying in 7/Elevens. It’s been bloodless, but it was a coup.

Earlier, at the army club compound in Bangkok, it was obvious something was up. Two days after the military declared martial law, the army had summoned the country’s political leaders to a meeting. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, army commander, he had failed to mediate compromise in the political deadlock, so he promptly detained Thailand’s political leaders.

Across the nation, all TV stations went off air. “Stand by,” the slate says, “for an important announcement.”

And then Thailand’s coup leader announced that, for the good of the nation, and to return things quickly to normal, the national peace and order maintaining council would be taking charge. Few of these journalists’ reports on the coup would ever make air.

Within hours, the army had shut down 14 TV stations, 3,000 community radio broadcasters and blocked international satellite channels. Out on the streets, many Thais shrugged it all off; coups are part of the great wheel of life here.

WOMAN (through interpreter): I feel better that everything will be back in order. People will go home and then we can all go back to work normally and everything will fall back into place.

MAN (through interpreter): It’s the same old thing. They have done this 17 or 18 times. If you ask me, I would say the army has chosen the stupidest solution.

JONATHAN MILLER: At military solution H.Q., the army club venue was now ringed by combat troops. Soldiers escorted two vans away from the building, inside, the leaders of the rival political protest movements.

GWEN IFILL: Thailand is America’s oldest ally in Asia, but the Obama administration criticized the coup, and said it’s reconsidering military ties and aid programs.

In Western China today, 31 people were killed and more than 90 wounded after attackers drove two SUVs into a busy street market and threw bombs. It happened in Urumqi, a city in Xinjiang where violence has surged in recent months. Authorities blame radicals in the Muslim Uighur minority.

In Beijing today, a Foreign Ministry spokesman vowed the government will put an end to the bloodshed.

HONG LEI, Spokesman, Chinese Foreign Ministry (through interpreter): The Chinese government has the confidence and the ability to combat the terrorists. These terrorists are swollen with arrogance. Their schemes will not succeed.

GWEN IFILL: Today’s death toll was the worst in Xinjiang since nearly 200 people died in riots in 2009.

The Senate today confirmed a judicial nominee who authored memos justifying drone strikes on American terror suspects overseas. David Barron wrote them when he worked at the Justice Department in 2009 and 2010. This week, the department agreed to release a censored version of one document to help ease his confirmation. Barron will join the federal appeals court in Boston.

In the House, Republicans and Democrats united to pass a $600 billion defense bill. It spares some aging planes, plus ships and bases that the Pentagon sought to retire or close. The bill also bars moving terror detainees from Guantanamo to U.S. prisons. That provision has prompted a White House veto threat. The Senate is considering a similar bill.

Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution today that asked the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Syria. The U.S. and 60 other nations supported the proposal offered by France. Russia argued the focus should be on a political settlement, but U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power condemned the veto.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. Ambassador to the UN: Sadly, because of the decision by the Russian Federation to back the Syrian regime no matter what it does, the Syrian people will not see justice today; they will see crime, but not punishment.

GWEN IFILL: This was the fourth time that Russia and China have blocked U.N. action in the Syrian war.

Elections for the European Parliament began today, with far-right parties looking to win big in a backlash against austerity measures. Voters in Britain and the Netherlands were the first to head to the polls. The voting runs through Sunday and spans the 28 member nations of the E.U.; 751 seats are up for grabs.

Toyota is adding to the parade of auto recalls. It’s pulling back 370,000 older model Sienna minivans in cold weather states. Road salt can corrode the spare tire carrier, and the tire can fall off. Also recalled, 50,000 current model Highlander SUVs that may have passenger air bag problems, and 10,000 Lexus GS 350 sedans from 2013. Their brakes can activate without warning.

In other economic news, Hewlett-Packard announced it’s cutting another 11,000 to 16,000 jobs worldwide as it restructures.

And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 10 points to close at 16,543. The Nasdaq rose 22 points to close at 4,154; and the S&P 500 added four to finish at 1,892.