Our main story today:
Thailand’s armed forces declared martial law early Tuesday, saying the move was intended to curb the country’s sometimes violent political conflict and wasn’t a coup d’état.
Army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a pair of statements at 3 a.m. and later appeared on television to say that martial law was necessary across the country to address the worsening security situation. The army later said it would censor media it deemed inflammatory. Thailand is bitterly divided between supporters of its populist government and its conservative opponents who have been massing on the streets for over half a year in a bid to topple the administration.
In the military’s first announcement, Gen. Prayuth said the escalating violence related to political protests in and around Bangkok have “a tendency to stir riot and serious chaos in several areas, which affect national security and people’s safety.”
Before Gen. Prayuth went on air, Army-run television station Channel 5 ran a ticker message across the bottom of its screen urging the public not to panic.
“The army aims to keep peace and maintain the safety and security of the people of all sides,” it said. “Please do not be alarmed and carry on with business as usual. This is not a coup.”
For ongoing updates, see our live stream of photos, text stories, and Tweets.
I also suggest checking out Bangkok Pundit, Saksith Saiyasombut, and — for academic and historical perspectives — New Mandala.
There’s also my 109-strong Twitter list of Bangkok journalists.
(Image above: The front page of The Bangkok Post on January 27, 2010.)
An AP story from this evening:
A brief interruption in some television broadcasts Thursday stoked fears of a military coup in Thailand, where an election is expected to be called within weeks, but the government said a satellite glitch was the problem.
Worth a read.
A Bangkok Post story from late today:
UDD again claims army preparing for a coup
Core members of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) claim the army’s show of force this week is clear evidence of preparations for a coup to block the general election.
And a story from the Nation today:
Red-shirt leaders blow whistle on coup
Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan said Army Chief of Staff General Dapong Rattanasuwan should explain why he urgenly summoned three key commanders to meet him at his residence on Wednesday’s night.
The three commanders were from the First, Second and Ninth Divisions based in Bangkok, Prachin Buri and Kanchanaburi respectively. All three divisions were involved in the 2006 coup.
Red-shirt leader Natthawut Saikua said he suspected the Army was plotting a coup under the disguise of ensuring preparedness to uphold the monarchy.
Natthawut claimed the mock exercise on preparedness was actually a checking campaign to rally the subordinates before staging the power seizure.
He said under the coup plotters would work in three steps – trying to revoke the bail of red-shirt leaders, ensuring the House dissolution in the first week of May and seizing power of the caretaker government.
Just noting these stories for the record.
Thailand’s TAN News Network on Twitter not long ago:
Related: yesterday’s post.
Update: To be clear, despite the wording of this tweet, no coup is underway. The TV outage led to chatter, on Twitter, about coup rumors. Just a point of clarification.
As you were…
Here’s the front page of today’s Nation, via @LeroyNewsDesign on Twitpic:
Here’s the accompanying story:
In an unprecedented move, top commanders came out yesterday to declare there would definitely be no military overthrow of the government.
“We ask you not to believe the rumours that soldiers will stage a coup. The Thai Armed Forces strictly abide by the Constitution under constitutional monarchy. Soldiers will not get involved in any political affairs,” supreme commander General Songkitti Jaggabatara told a news conference together with the chiefs of the three armed branches.
(As Saksith Saiyasombut noted on Twitter, it’s impossible to ignore the below-the-fold story, “Cabinet to consider approving pricey military gift list,” as well…)
Here’s more coverage:
- AP yesterday: “Thai military chief rejects coup rumors”
Thailand’s top military brass has issued a joint statement saying there will not be a coup, seeking to dispel rumors as politics heat up ahead of expected elections later this year.
- Bangkok Post: “Military leaders unified against a coup”
The military’s top brass have vehemently rejected rumours about an imminent coup d’etat sparked by a recent meeting of leading political figures.
The statement was made yesterday by Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara in the presence of the commanders of all the armed forces _ army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, navy commander Kamthorn Phumhiran, and air force chief Itthaporn Subhawong _ at a press conference called after the monthly meeting of senior officers.
And finally, just noting for the record: a related post and photo of the the Jan. 27, 2010 Bangkok Post front page:
No bigger point to make at the moment, but just wanted to note the seemingly ever-present discussions/whispers/speculation/denials of the prospect of a military coup here in Thailand.
— AFP today: “Thai government, army deny coup claims.”
— Bangkok Post today: “Suthep brushes aside coup claim.“
— The Nation today: “Isoc denies coup plot“
One year ago today — Jan. 27, 2010 — this was the Bangkok Post‘s front page:
No larger point to mention at the moment — political uncertainties obviously remain here in Thailand — but just wanted to note this, for the record.