News / Asia

    Thai Army Declares Martial Law, But Says It’s Not a Coup

    Thai Army Intervenes in Political Standoff, Declares Martial Lawi
    X
    May 20, 2014 12:38 PM
    Thailand’s army imposed martial law in the country Tuesday and insisted the action is not a coup but is instead aimed at resolving the political standoff through dialogue. But it remains unclear how the military, which has staged 18 coups or attempted coups in Thailand since 1932, will be able to break the impasse. Barry Newhouse reports from Bangkok.
    Related video by Barry Newhouse
    Thailand's military says martial law will stay in place until peace and order are restored, following months of sometimes deadly anti-government protests.

    Army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha went on television Tuesday, saying he declared martial law to end the political stalemate and prevent violence after the country's top court ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for abuse of power.

    Thailand's interim Prime Minister Niwattamrong Boongsongpaisan says he plans to speak with the army general who declared martial law. In the meantime, he has issued a plea for the military to act peacefully and within the bounds of the constitution.
     
    Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee says the army has assured ministers of the caretaker Cabinet that the government is still fully functioning under the current constitution.
     
    "The martial law is to maintain peace and order, for us government agencies to resume our work in an effective manner to serve the public and to ensure that the general public can lead their normal activities in Bangkok and across the nation," said Sek.
     
    • Thai Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha greets other officers upon his arrival at an army club for a meeting with high ranking officials after declaring martial law, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 20, 2014.
    • A Thai soldier guards the Government House compound of the prime minister's office, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 20, 2014.
    • Thai soldiers take their positions in the middle of a main intersection in Bangkok's shopping district May 20, 2014.
    • Commuters drive their motorcycles past Thai soldiers positioned in the middle of a main intersection in the shopping district, in Bangkok, May 20, 2014.
    • Thai soldiers check a taxi near the site where pro-government "red shirt" supporters gather, in the suburbs of Bangkok, May 20, 2014.
    • A Thai soldier stands atop a military vehicle outside the Center for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) after soldiers were sent in to seize the center, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 20, 2014.

    But sources in the government, who do not want to be identified, tell VOA News the military decrees have essentially rendered the civilian government impotent and its leaders find themselves kowtowing to the powerful army command.
     
    The army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, says he declared martial law in a bid to end the country’s drawn-out political stalemate and prevent violence between pro- and anti-government supporters.
     
    Asked by reporters if the military's action is a prelude to a coup, the general responded that is a question “no one is going to answer” and no assumptions should be made.
     
    ‘De facto coup’

    Under the martial law order, no marches are allowed by demonstrators. The organizers of rival protest movements say they will continue their rallies at fixed spots.
     
    Former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban has led six months of anti-government protests. After martial law was imposed, he told his followers their demonstration will continue.
     
    Suthep said despite martial law the constitution still exists, as does the right to rally peacefully without weapons to stand up and oust the government.
     
    Throughout the day the military issued numerous orders subsequent to the martial law decree. They include shutting down a number of television and radio stations and warning that anyone using social media to incite unrest would face consequences. Its ninth order of the day then insisted there be no discussion about the imposition of martial law “in all formats.”
     
    Amnesty International issued a statement saying the army's restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly violate Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law.
     
    Another global non-governmental organization, Human Rights Watch, characterizes the declaration of martial law as a “de facto coup.” It is calling for the United States and others to demand power be returned immediately to the civilian government.
     
    The U.S. State Department is calling on the Thai Army to honor its pledge to "make this a temporary action to prevent violence, and to not undermine democratic institutions."
     
    Thailand's constitutional court recently issued an abuse of power ruling that led to the resignation of interim prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. She was replaced by her commerce minister, Niwattamrong.
     
    Thailand has faced 18 coups or coup attempts since the early 1930's. The last one, in 2006, resulted in the overthrow of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother. His opponents contend Thaksin is essentially still running the government while in self-imposed exile.

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora