Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thailand: Martial Law Declared by Thai Military on May 20

According to CNN, and as an indication of continuing instability, the Thai military declared martial law on Tuesday (May 20),

Lt. Gen. Nipat Thonglek told CNN that the development was in no way a coup d'etat

The people of Thailand are all too familiar with their government being overthrown. There have been at least 18 actual and attempted military takeovers since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

As a backdrop to continuing unrest, on May 7, Yingluck Shinawatra, 46, was removed from the government as Prime Minister. Subsequently, the Thai Constitutional Court ruled that she was guilty of violating the constitution and authorized her ouster.

In November 2013, protesters took to the streets against the government's botched attempt to pass an amnesty bill that would have made it possible for the the PM's brother, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, 64, a communications billionaire. He was subsequently ousted in a coup in 2006 and has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai. 

COMMENT: Many of the Shinawantras critics contend that from the moment Yingluck took office, Thaksin was pulling strings behind the curtain.

The jury remains out as to whether martial law will alleviation tensions or calm them.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, described the situation as "very volatile."

The US Embassy in Bangkok alerted US citizens in the country that martial law has been imposed. It warned them to pay attention to media coverage and avoid protests and public gatherings, cautioning that peaceful events could easily turn violent.

The task force has ordered officials to appear before it. Local and international journalists formed a crowd outside the building waiting for Prayuth to speak.

At a news conference, the general said he wanted "all political parties" to commence a dialogue aimed at ending the political crisis in Thailand, saying the military "won't allow any bloodshed."

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.