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Thai army chief urges rivals to talk

after declaring martial law


3 OF 3. Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures during a news conference
at The Army Club after the army declared martial law nationwide to restore order, in
Bangkok May !, !"#$
CREDIT: REUTERS/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA
BY AMY SAWITTA LEFEVRE-BANGKOK Tue May 20, 2014
%hile troo&s &atrolled &arts of Bangkok and army s&okesmen took to the
airwaves, the caretaker government led by su&&orters of self-e'iled former &remier
Thaksin (hinawatra said it was still running the country$)*euters+ - Thailand,s army
declared martial law nationwide on Tuesday to restore order after si' months of street
&rotests that have left the country without a &ro&er functioning government, but insisted
the sur&rise intervention was not a military cou&$
Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said the military had stepped in to restore
order and build investor confidence, and warned that troops would take action against
anyone who used weapons and harmed civilians.
"e ask all sides to come and talk to find a way out for the country," Prayuth told
reporters after meeting directors of government agencies and other high-ranking
officials.
!ilitary officials said they were not interfering with the caretaker government, but
ministers were not informed of the army"s plan before an announcement on television
at # a.m. $%&&& G!' on !onday( and Prayuth said martial law would be maintained
until peace and order had been restored.
'wenty-eight people have been killed and )&& in*ured since the anti-government
protests began in +ovember last year.
'he crisis is the latest chapter in a near-decade-long power struggle between former
telecoms tycoon 'haksin and the royalist establishment that has brought the country
to the brink of recession and even raised fears of civil war.
'roops, some in *eeps mounted with machineguns, stopped some traffic from entering
,angkok after the martial law order. 'hey also took up position at intersections and
secured television stations, but life went on as normal in most of the city.
+- !A.C/01
,oth pro- and anti-government protesters are camped out at different places in the
capital and, to prevent clashes, the army told them they had to stay put.
'he army also ordered 2& satellite '3 channels, both pro- and anti-government, to
stop broadcasting.
'he caretaker government, wary of the army given its past interventions on the side of
the establishment, said it welcomed the move to restore order and that it remained in
office.
'hailand has been stuck in political limbo since Prime !inister 4ingluck 1hinawatra,
'haksin"s younger sister, and nine of her ministers were dismissed on !ay ) after a
court found them guilty of abuse of power.
'he military, which put down a pro-'haksin protest movement in %&2&, has staged
numerous coups since 'hailand became a constitutional monarchy in 25#%. 'he last
one was in %&&6 to oust 'haksin, who has lived abroad since %&&7 but wields political
influence and commands huge support among the poor.
Anti-government protesters want a "neutral" prime minister to oversee electoral
reforms aimed at ending 'haksin"s influence. 'hey disrupted a 8eb. % election that
'haksin"s loyalists looked set to win. 9t was later declared void.
'he government, on the other hand, views an early general election it would likely win
as the best way forward.
,oth sides said they were sticking to their demands. "!artial law does not affect our
civil uprising," 1uthep 'haugsuban, the leader of the anti-government protesters, told
his cheering supporters. "e still retain our right to demonstrate against this
tyrannical government."
0arlier, caretaker Prime !inister +iwatthamrong ,oonsongphaisan said he had asked
the 0lection Commission to set the ballot for Aug. # and he was in talks with the army.
"e are talking to the army chief"s side and there are many pressing issues we need to
discuss : including elections and reform," +iwatthamrong told reporters.
"P/A+'-! C-;P"
'he army tried to mediate in the crisis late last year, bringing together then-premier
4ingluck and anti-government protest leader 1uthep. 9t had played down fears of a
coup, stressing that politicians must resolve the dispute.
,ut /uman .ights atch called martial law a "de facto coup" while a political analyst
said it was a "phantom coup".
"8or this to be a success the army needs to act like a neutral force and not be seen to
side with the anti-government protesters. 9t needs to offer an election date and start a
political reform process," said <an 4uenyong at the 1iam 9ntelligence ;nit think-tank.
!artial law gives the military broad powers over civilian authorities, but a full coup
would likely incur costs in terms of greater damage to investor confidence and ;.1.
sanctions.
'he ;nited 1tates, which cut aid to its military ally after the %&&6 coup, said it was
monitoring the situation closely.
Prayuth had warned last week, after three people were killed in an attack on anti-
government protesters, that troops might have to be used if violence continued.
"/e now feels that the police cannot handle security and is alarmed by grenade attacks
and other incidents and the fact neither side looks like it will back down," said a senior
army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"+- C-;P 40'"
'he baht fell against the dollar in early trade but steadied later and dealers suspected
that was due to intervention by the central bank. At &5&& G!' the baht was =uoted at
#%.># per dollar after earlier trading at a low of around #%.6?.
'he stock market ended 2.2# percent down.
1i@ months of turmoil has dragged down 1outheast Asia"s second-biggest economy,
which shrank %.2 percent in the first =uarter of the year.
Andrew Col=uhoun, /ead of Asia-Pacific 1overeigns at ratings agency 8itch, said
martial law was not necessarily negative for 'hailand"s government debt, and might
help break the deadlock.
"'he key factors for the ratings are whether 'hailand can avert more serious and
bloody political disorder, and whether we see a return to a fully functioning
government that is able to make policy and pass a budget for the ne@t fiscal year."
'he leader of 'haksin"s pro-government "red shirt" loyalists, who are rallying in
,angkok"s outskirts, appealed for calm but warned of trouble if the government was
ousted.
"9f soldiers appoint a prime minister then we will escalate our rally," Aatuporn
Prompan told a news conference. "1tay calm. 'here has been no coup yet."
$Additional reporting by ,angkok ,ureauB riting by .obert ,irselB 0diting by Alan
.aybould, Ale@ .ichardson and !ike Collett-hite(