Thai junta leader says king endorses coup

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FILE – In this Tuesday, May 20, 2014 file photo, Thai Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha greets back his junior upon his arrival at army club for a meeting with high ranking officials after declaring martial law in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand’s coup leader said the country’s monarchy has officially endorsed him to run the country after the armed forces seized power last week. Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said he received the endorsement Monday, May 26, formalizing his status as head of government at the army headquarters in Bangkok (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)

FILE – In this Tuesday, May 20, 2014 file photo, Thai Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha greets back his junior upon his arrival at army club for a meeting with high ranking officials after declaring martial law in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand’s coup leader said the country’s monarchy has officially endorsed him to run the country after the armed forces seized power last week. Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said he received the endorsement Monday, May 26, formalizing his status as head of government at the army headquarters in Bangkok (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, left, arrives at the office of the Attorney General to hear insurrection charge in Bangkok, Thailand Monday, May 26, 2014. Thailand’s ruling military council stiffened its warnings Sunday against protests over its takeover of power, with its patience apparently wearing thin over demonstrations that have been growing in size and boldness. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai soldiers guard at the office of the Attorney General as anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and others were taken to hear insurrection charge in Bangkok, Thailand Monday, May 26, 2014. Thailand’s ruling military council stiffened its warnings Sunday against protests over its takeover of power, with its patience apparently wearing thin over demonstrations that have been growing in size and boldness. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

An anti-coup protester cries as she asks a Thai soldier to go away during a demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, May 25, 2014. The top general in Thailand’s ruling junta warned people Sunday not to join anti-coup street protests, saying normal democratic principles cannot be applied at the time, as troops fanned out in central Bangkok to prevent rallies.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

An anti-coup protester cries as she asks a Thai soldier to go away during a demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, May 25, 2014. The top general in Thailand’s ruling junta warned people Sunday not to join anti-coup street protests, saying normal democratic principles cannot be applied at the time, as troops fanned out in central Bangkok to prevent rallies.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

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BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s coup leader said Monday that the country’s king had officially endorsed him to run the nation after the armed forces seized power last week. The announcement came one day after the junta warned protesters it was ready to crackdown on civilian opposition to its takeover.

Dressed in a white military uniform, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha spoke at the start of his first press conference since Thursday’s coup.

He justified the putsch, saying that he had to act after a half-year of increasingly violent confrontations between the now-ousted government and its supporters, and demonstrators backed by powerful businessmen who had struggled to overthrow it.

“The most important thing right now is to keep peace and order in the country,” Prayuth said. “When the conflict intensified, and there was the threat of violence, we had to act.”

Suthep Thaugsuban, who had led seven months of protests and had been detained by the junta since the coup was announced last Thursday, left a military detention center Monday and later appeared at the attorney general’s office escorted by police and soldiers. He faces insurrection charges for seizing government ministries and other infractions during his protest bid.

The military has sought to limit the protests by detaining figures who might play leadership roles. The junta has defended the detentions of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, most of the deposed government’s Cabinet, and dozens of politicians and activists.

It also has ordered dozens of outspoken activists, academics and journalists to report to military authorities. More than 200 — the majority considered opponents of the new regime — have been officially summoned so far in lists broadcast on radio and TV.

The fate of Yingluck, who surrendered herself Friday, and many others remains unclear. Some detainees have been released, and the military has said it expects to free most after about a week.

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Associated Press writer Kay Johnson contributed to this report.

Associated Press

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