Accounts of those pivotal moments at a military complex in Bangkok known as the Army Club, relayed by two lawmakers who were present and Thai media, indicate that Prayuth had no intention of engaging in the kind of protracted negotiation necessary to mediate a conflict that reignited last year when protesters took to the streets.
The sequence of events raises questions about whether the meeting was a ruse to neutralize anyone who might oppose the coup. The fact it happened so swiftly suggests that Prayuth was already planning to do what demonstrators had pushed for all along: overthrow the government, if the two sides could not reach a compromise.
There was never much hope they would.
Two days earlier, when Prayuth declared martial law, the 60-year-old officer insisted he was only trying to restore stability and force all sides to talk. On Wednesday, he summoned rival factions and Cabinet officials who had no choice but to show up.
After that initial two-hour meeting, everyone was told to come back with proposals to end the crisis, said a lawmaker who attended who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Could rival protest groups call off their demonstrations? Could an interim government be agreed upon? Should political reform (demanded by protesters) or new elections (demanded by the government) come first? Could the country hold a referendum on its fate?
When talks resumed Thursday, the atmosphere was much different.
Participants were ordered to leave their cellphones outside, more soldiers were on guard and they were heavily armed. Prayuth opened the meeting, saying his aim was to bring peace.
"What I'm doing today is in the interest of security," he said, in a video released by the military's TV station. "If this steps over anyone, then I have to apologize. I insist that I will honor every side, always."
An hour later, there was, predictably, no agreement on Thailand's fate, the lawmaker said. The talks kept returning to a single point: how would the government go?
Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the Cabinet could sacrifice for the nation and resign. Somebody else suggested that the civilian administration might just "take leave." Others said ministers could step down one by one, or en masse.
The government officials said "they couldn't do it, claiming they were brought to power by the people and therefore could not step down," said Sirichoke Sopha, a former member of Parliament from the opposition Democrat Party who was present at the talks. "We pleaded for them to step back, asking them to sacrifice to save democracy, because we looked at the situation and it didn't look good."
Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban then held a private meeting with rival Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan. They spoke, accompanied by aides, for 45 minutes. Afterward, both leaders whispered with Prayuth in a corner for a brief minute.
When the meeting resumed, Prayuth asked Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri if the government was still insisting it would not step down.
"We will not," Chaikasem replied, according to the lawmaker.