News / Asia

Thai Military Declares Martial Law, Seeks 'Peace and Order'

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.
Watch Barry Newhouse related video report
Ron Corben
Thailand's military has declared martial law, saying it did so to keep "peace and order" after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests, the army chief said.

In a televised announcement early Tuesday, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha defended the move as necessary to resolve the country's political crisis.

As soldiers took up positions in key parts of Bangkok, the military denied it was staging a coup and urged rival political groups to come together and talk.

In a declaration broadcast on national television, Prayuth said the army acted over concerns that the security situation is deteriorating and to prevent violence between pro- and anti-government supporters.
 
  • 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.

“The Royal Thai Army intends to bring back peace and order to the beloved country of every Thai as soon as possible,” Prayuth said.

“We therefore ask every side and every group to stop their movement, in order to quickly enter the process and sustainably solve the country’s problem. The provisions of the Martial Law Act 1914 will be announced. We are asking the general public not to panic and still carry on their duties and work normally,” he added.

Prayuth met later Tuesday with senior officials from several government agencies. He called for talks between rival parties, but vowed martial law would remain in place until law and order is restored.

The army denies it is taking over. Several officials strongly denied a coup had taken place.

Mark Thompson, director of Southeast Asia research at City University of Hong Kong, told VOA that the military is reluctant to label its actions as a coup because it fears this could stoke further unrest.

“It is semantics, but it's an important point, because the last time the military stepped in in 2006, it didn't work. And the military is afraid that if they call it a coup and actually remove the caretaker government officially, not de facto like they are doing now, that will provoke the Red Shirts and could lead the country closer to civil war."

Interim government in charge

Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri told reporters the interim government is still in charge and insists the army's move only relates to security. However, members of the caretaker government say they were not consulted before the decision to implement the martial law.

In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. is "very concerned" and is monitoring the situation. She said the U.S. expects the Thai army to honor its commitment to make the martial law a "temporary action to prevent violence, and to not undermine democratic institutions."

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, said the military may be hoping to stabilize a volatile and deadlocked political climate, amid fears of violence.

"The potential violence that is looming is quite large,” Panitan said.

“These groups of people are ready to confront each other with arms. The military wants to stabilize that. But it's not going to be easy,” he said. “But of course, I think the military is determined to do that. If they are successful, then secondly you may buy time and open any space for negotiation. The question is where and what negotiation should resume?"
 
Bangkok has endured six months of anti-government protests pressing the government of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. A recent constitutional court found Yingluck and nine cabinet members guilty of abuse of power, which led to their resignation.

The military said the new caretaker government of Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan remains in place. The army chief urged both sides of the political divide to come together and discuss a solution.

Boonsongpaisan on Tuesday called for fresh polls to be held on August 3 in a bid to end the nation's political turmoil, according to the French news agency AFP.

He told reporters that the government had written to the Thai Election Commission proposing the new date for polls and hoped to "submit a royal decree" next week for the king to endorse a new national vote.

While the Thai army largely stayed out of the political deadlock over recent months, some pro-government leaders, such as senior party member Smarn Leertwongrath, see the military as sympathetic to the demands of former lawmaker Suthep Thangsuban's anti-government protesters.

"I believe that the commander in chief of the army is on the side of Khun Suthep. Probably they want to tell the Thai people they want everyone into a situation that the political (climate) can be calm for just a while,” Smarn said.

Since 1932, Thailand has faced 18 coups or coup attempts. The last, in 2006, saw the overthrow of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was accused of abuse of power.

Latest conflict

Thailand's latest descent into political conflict began in October following more than two years of relative calm under former Prime Minister Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party.

But street protests erupted over a proposed amnesty bill that opened the way for the return of Thaksin, who fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a jail term for corruption. Nearly 30 people have died and hundreds have been injured in violence related to the protests since November.

Under the martial law declared Tuesday, the army says both pro- and anti-government protesters must remain in their designated demonstration sites.

Anti-government demonstrators, who forced the annulment of elections in February and had vowed a "final battle" in coming days to topple the prime minister, called off a march that had been planned for Tuesday, AFP reported.

In a televised statement, the army also warned against spreading news that can "negatively affect security." Troops were positioned at TV stations where broadcasts were suspended under sweeping censorship orders, although regular Thais appeared largely unfazed, according to AFP reports.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the declaration of martial law Tuesday marks a step back in Thailand's political process.

"This is very scary and that's why so drastic actions like martial law there needs to be convincing evidence that the survival of the nation is at risk or there is out of control public disturbance - something similar to full scale riots or civil war,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. “But we don't see that. The reasons given by the Army chief are all speculative."

Sunai said the army’s apparent tactic of pressuring conflicting parties to seek a way forward may lead to greater damage for Thailand.
 
Analysts said the Army hopes to avoid a repetition of bloodshed in 2010, when clashes with Red Shirt protesters left over 90 people dead in the worst bloody violence since 1992.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
May 20, 2014 1:24 PM
Wake up people what going on around us we don't no what they really order Marshall law for we are being decisive by santan look up and ask Jesus to for give all of our sin JESUS LOVE YOU REMBER WHO DIE FOR YOU

by: Anonymous
May 20, 2014 11:41 AM
people of Thai remain in peace.men of Thai life is more precious.your loving wives and children depend on you.never attempt war in your country.even God can't allow an evil man die(Ezekiel 18:23) forgive each and live in peace.

by: Frank from: USA
May 20, 2014 11:10 AM
Never mind Thailand, this will happen in the USA under AGENDA 21. Most sheep Americans are asleep to this FACT, but when the next MANUFACTURED CRISIS is initiated by the Global Elites or the CIA, martial law will happen here. Remember, grandpa and grandma, Liberterians, and returning veterans are the NUMBER ONE so-called threat to America, as the CIA funds Al Qaeda from off shore banks. Time to WAKE UP, America, being informed is the first step in being the RESISTANCE!

by: hegesias
May 20, 2014 9:18 AM
Because nothing makes "peace and order" like martial law.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
May 20, 2014 2:31 PM
I do believe that all the governments toppled by violent protesters, are now having violent protesters trying to topple them? -- Violent protests lead to more violent protests, and they lead to a never ending cycle of more violent protests? --
The military is the only means to bring order and a peaceful government to a democracy, a monarchy, or a communist country.. -- AND if the military fails, the country will descend into chaos, violence, and lawlessness..... REALLY

by: siripol from: Bangkok
May 20, 2014 5:07 AM
I just would like to emphasize that not only military coup but also Taksin's group deteriorate the democracy. Indeed the Government under Taksin's direction has destroyed our country stability.
Therefore plse do not adopt American standard gauge all country, when talk about democracy. He make use his wealth to create his wealth

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs