Thailand's army declared martial law today, in a move that looks a lot like a coup but that the army says is not a coup.
Following months of protests, the country's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and some members of her cabinet were ordered to step down on May 7. Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan is currently the country's acting prime minister, but protestors aren't happy with him. He's refusing to resign, and the Senate -- the only legislative body remaining in the country after Yingluck dissolved the Parliament in December -- will only appoint a new interim prime minister if the current one steps down. Stalemate.
Army officials made the martial law announcement on several television stations, saying the move was to "keep peace and order," and that "the public do not need to panic but can still live their lives as normal." According to the AP, "armed troops entered multiple private television stations in Bangkok to broadcast their message nationwide."
The army will now be in charge of the nation's security, but, it insists, that's it. Though Thailand's army has staged 11 successful coups since 1932, this is not one of them (yet). An unnamed official told the AP that "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."
An aide to the interim prime minister, however, said the government was not told about this before the fact, and called it "half a coup d'etat."
Thailand's last coup was in 2006, when Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was removed from his post as prime minister after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. Yingluck has also been accused of abuse of power. Thaksin is still popular in parts of Thailand, and his supporters have clashed with anti-government protestors.
On May 13, U.S. Defense Department official Amy Searight said the country was "reasonable confident" that the Thai military wouldn't stage another coup and commended it for its restraint.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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