A soldier walks in front of the National Broadcasting
Services of Thailand television station in Bangkok after
the army declared martial law. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Thailand's army has declared martial law to restore order
after six months of anti-government protests which have left
the country without a proper functioning government, but the
move did not constitute a coup, military officials said.
The caretaker government was still in office, said deputy
army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari, following the surprise
announcement on television at 3am (local time).
"This martial law is just to restore peace and stability, it
has nothing to do with the government. The government is
still functioning as normal," Winthai told Reuters.
Thailand has been stuck in political limbo since Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine of her ministers were
dismissed on May 7 after a court found them guilty of abuse
of power. An acting prime minister has since taken over.
The crisis, the latest instalment of a near-decade-long power
struggle between ousted former prime minister Thaksin
Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, and the royalist
establishment, has brought the country to the brink of
The military, which put down a protest movement in 2010, has
staged numerous coups since Thailand became a constitutional
monarchy in 1932, the last one in 2006 to oust the former
telecommunications tycoon Thaksin.
A senior U.S. official said last week the United States was
"reasonably confident" the military in close ally Thailand
would exercise restraint and not intervene in the crisis.
Amy Searight, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South
and Southeast Asia, said it was "reasonable to think there
were lessons learned" after the Thai military ousted Thaksin,
which saw Washington cut aid to the country.
Troops were patrolling in Bangkok and had secured television
stations, one Thai army general said.
"We declared a state of emergency, it's not a coup. Because
of the situation, it's not stable, they kill each other every
day," the general, who declined to be identified, told
He said soldiers were patrolling in Bangkok and had secured
"We need cooperation from them to announce to the people 'do
not panic, this is not a coup'," the general said.
Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan on Monday
ruled out resigning as a way out of a protracted political
crisis that is stunting economic growth, as anti-government
protesters stepped up pressure to remove him and install a
Six months of turmoil that has included violent protests and
a disrupted general election is dragging down Southeast
Asia's second biggest economy, which shrank 2.1 percent in
the first quarter of the year.
ECONOMY IN TROUBLE
Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong replaced Yingluck, but the
anti-government protesters say he has no legal standing and
they want a "neutral" government to push through reforms.
Weak exports and the political mayhem have damaged the
economy, prompting the state planning agency to cut its
forecast for 2014 growth to between 1.5 and 2.5 percent, from
a range of 3.0 to 4.0 percent.
The government and its supporters view a general election as
the best way to solve the crisis - the ruling Puea Thai Party
would be well placed to win - but a vote tentatively
scheduled for July 20 looks to be off the table.
Jatuporn Prompan, leader of pro-government "red shirt"
activists said he and his followers would sustain a protest
in Bangkok's western outskirts until the restoration of
"democratic principles" leading to an election.
"That's fine," Jatuporn told Reuters when asked about his
reaction to the declaration of martial law.
"We will stay here and continue our protest until the country
is back to democratic principles, which will lead to an
election and getting a new elected prime minister."
A Feb. 2 election was disrupted by opposition supporters and
then declared void by the Constitutional Court. The
protesters say they will disrupt any vote before changes to
the electoral system are pushed through.