Thailand’s army declared martial law before dawn on Tuesday, deepening a political crisis that has gripped the nation in recent weeks, Associated Press reported.
However, the military denied a coup d’etat is under way.
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 that the military had taken the action to “keep peace and order” and soldiers entered several private television stations in the capital.
An army official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, told The Associated Press “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 military statement was signed by army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha. It cited a 1914 law that gives it authority to intervene during times of crisis, and said it had taken the action because on-going mass rallies between political rivals “could impact the country’s security and safety of the lives and properties of the public”.
On Monday, Thailand’s acting prime minister insisted his government will not resign, resisting pressure from a group of senators who are seeking ways to settle the country’s political crisis, and from anti-government protesters who are demanding an appointed prime minister.
The deadlock in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy has been worsening since former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the lower house in December and a court ousted her and nine cabinet ministers earlier this month for abuse of power.
A group of about 70 senators, most of whom are seen as siding with the anti-government protesters, proposed a framework on Friday that calls for a government with full power to conduct political reforms.
Acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan and Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri met with two representatives of the Senate in an undisclosed location Monday to avoid disruption from the protesters.
In a statement following the meeting, Niwattumrong said the Cabinet cannot resign because “it will be negligence of duty and against the constitution,” and insisted he “can carry out duties and has full authority” as prime minister, the report said.
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