Thailand’s military has declared martial law, saying it did so to keep “peace and order” after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests.
In a surprise announcement early Tuesday, Thailand’s military chief, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, said the move was necessary because of mounting fear that there could be riots in many parts of the country. The army denied it is taking over, stressing that Tuesday’s action is “not a coup.”
Tensions in the kingdom, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, have worsened since former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the lower house of parliament in December, in a bid to ease the crisis. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court ousted her and nine Cabinet ministers for abuse of power.
Thailand’s caretaker prime minister, Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, says the government will not resign.
Although troops are deployed at some intersections in the capital, Bangkok, the vast metropolis of 10 million people appeared calm and Tuesday morning commuters could be seen driving and walking to work as usual.
Anti-government demonstrations across Thailand have killed 28 people and left hundreds wounded.
This latest political crisis began in 2006, when Ms. Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Thaksin remains highly popular among the rural, and parties controlled by him have won every national election since 2001. The anti-government protesters, who are backed by the country’s traditional elites, say they want to remove all traces of the Thaksin political machine from politics.