Thailand's Army Takes Over, but It's 'Not a Coup'

Move comes after months of anti-government protests

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 19, 2014 6:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – Thailand's army declared martial law in a surprise announcement before dawn that it said was aimed at keeping the country stable after six months of sometimes violent political unrest. The military, however, denied a coup d'etat was underway. The move effectively places the army in charge of public security nationwide. It comes one day after the Southeast Asian country's caretaker prime minister refused to step down and follows six months of anti-government demonstrations that have failed to oust the government.

Thailand's army declared martial law in a surprise announcement in Bangkok before dawn, intensifying the turbulent nation's deepening political crisis. It was not immediately clear whether a coup d'etat was underway. The move came after six months of anti-government demonstrations aimed at ousting the government and one day after the Southeast Asian country's caretaker prime minister refused to step down.

The army said in a statement it had taken the action to "keep peace and order." Armed troops entered multiple private television stations in Bangkok to broadcast their message nationwide. Although troops were deployed at some intersections, the vast metropolis of 10 million people appeared calm and commuters could be seen driving and walking to work as usual. An army official, speaking on condition of anonymity, "this is definitely not a coup. This is only to provide safety to the people and the people can still carry on their lives as normal." Thailand's army has staged at 11 successful coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. The last was in 2006. Click for more on the story.

Thailand army soldiers arrive for security as pro-government supporters arrive outside the gate of the National Anti-Corruption Commission office in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.
Thailand army soldiers arrive for security as pro-government supporters arrive outside the gate of the National Anti-Corruption Commission office in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.   (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
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