News / Asia

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

Thai Army Intervenes in Political Standoff, Declares Martial Lawi
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

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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 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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs