Thai troops detain gov’t minister who blasted coup

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Former Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, center, walks after being detained by soldiers after a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Thai troops detained the Cabinet minister who defiantly emerged from hiding on Tuesday to condemn last week’s military coup and urge a return to civilian rule, in the first public appearance by any member of the ousted government. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Former Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, center, walks after being detained by soldiers after a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Thai troops detained the Cabinet minister who defiantly emerged from hiding on Tuesday to condemn last week’s military coup and urge a return to civilian rule, in the first public appearance by any member of the ousted government. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

A protester holds an anti-coup banner next to a Buddhist monk during a demonstration at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Armed troops detained a Thai Cabinet minister who defiantly emerged from hiding on Tuesday to condemn last week’s military coup and urge a return to civilian rule, in the first public appearance by any member of the ousted government. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

Military police stand guard during an anti-coup demonstration at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Last Thursday’s military takeover, Thailand’s second in eight years, deposed an elected government that had insisted for months that the nation’s fragile democracy was under attack from protesters, the courts, and finally the army. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Former Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, center, waves after being detained by soldiers following a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Thai troops detained the Cabinet minister who defiantly emerged from hiding on Tuesday to condemn last week’s military coup and urge a return to civilian rule, in the first public appearance by any member of the ousted government. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Former Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, center, walks to a military vehicle after being detained by soldiers following a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Thai troops detained the Cabinet minister who defiantly emerged from hiding on Tuesday to condemn last week’s military coup and urge a return to civilian rule, in the first public appearance by any member of the ousted government. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

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BANGKOK (AP) — Armed troops detained a Thai Cabinet minister who defiantly emerged from hiding Tuesday to condemn last week’s military coup and urge a return to civilian rule, in the first public appearance by any member of the ousted government.

About half a dozen soldiers took former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang into custody in a chaotic scene at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, where he had just finished giving a surprise news conference.

The junta, which seized power last Thursday, already had detained most top members of the Southeast Asian country’s ousted elected government and ordered the rest to surrender.

Chaturon called for elections and warned that resistance to the army’s power grab could grow, which could lead to “a disaster for this country.”

When his news conference was finished and Chaturon was being interviewed by a group of Thai journalists, soldiers entered the room, surrounded him, and escorted him out through a crowd of reporters. He was calm and smiled as he was taken away.

“I’m not afraid. If I was afraid, I wouldn’t be here,” Chaturon said, before being hustled into an elevator.

The military coup, Thailand’s second in eight years, deposed an elected government that had insisted for months that the nation’s fragile democracy was under attack from protesters, the courts, and finally the army.

The country is deeply split between an elite establishment based in Bangkok with political supporters in the south that cannot win elections, and a poorer majority centered in the north and northeast that has begun to realize political and economic power.

A “coup d’etat is not a solution to the problems or conflicts in Thai society, but will make the conflicts even worse,” Chaturon said.

Army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was endorsed Monday by the king as the nation’s new head of government, has warned opponents not to criticize or protest, saying Thailand could revert to the “old days” of turmoil and street violence if they did.

Still, several hundred people gathered Tuesday around Bangkok’s Victory Monument to protest the coup.

Despite the political upheaval that has left the nation’s elected leadership in tatters, life has continued largely as normal in most of the country, with tourists still relaxing at exotic beach resorts and strolling through stunning Buddhist temples. However, a curfew remains in effect, although it will be shortened Wednesday to midnight to 4 a.m., hotel bookings are being canceled, and American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift on Tuesday canceled a sold-out concert that had been scheduled on June 9.

The junta has ordered more than 260 people to report to the authorities so far. Among them are scholars, journalists and political activists seen as critical of the regime. Prayuth has said they need time “to calm themselves down.”

It is unclear how many are still in custody, but some have been released, including former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who had already been forced from power by a court ruling before the coup.

Others are being detained daily. Human rights groups describe a chilling atmosphere with some people in hiding, others fleeing, and soldiers visiting the homes of perceived critics and taking them away in the night.

On Tuesday, the military summoned two Thai newspaper journalists who had asked “inappropriate” questions to Prayuth during a news conference a day earlier.

The reporters, from the Thairath and Bangkok Post dailies, had queried the junta leader about when and whether he would appoint a prime minister and

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