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Thai troops detain gov’t minister who blasted coup

Chaturon Chaisang was taken away by Thai soldiers after a press conference in Bangkok on Tuesday.

Borja Sanchez Trillo/Getty Images

Chaturon Chaisang was taken away by Thai soldiers after a press conference in Bangkok on Tuesday.

BANGKOK — 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.

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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 General 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 singer-songwriter Taylor Swift on Tuesday canceled a sold-out concert that had been scheduled for 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.

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