[JURIST] The Thai military declared martial law in the Southeast Asian nation on Tuesday. Commander of the Thai army, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has stated [BBC report] that the army’s declaration is not a coup but will remain in place until “peace and order” has been restored. The declaration of martial law was announced on a military run television station, citing Thailand’s martial law act of 1914 as the basis for the military’s action. In another television address Tuesday the military ordered [WSJ report] censorship of a number of media sources, including 10 satellite television channels run by pro and anti-government groups, in the interests of national security. Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan expressed concern following the military’s action, calling on the army to respect the Constitution and allow for new elections in August. Troops moved in to occupy the Government House, the Prime Minister’s offices which have remained unoccupied for months following violent demonstrations by anti-government groups. According to the BBC the army has staged at least 11 coups [BBC report] since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.
Earlier this month the Thai Constitutional Court [official website, in English] ordered caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra [BBC profile] to step down for an alleged abuse of power relating to the transfer of a senior civil servant to another position in the government that occurred shortly after she took office in 2011. In April Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) [official website] indicted 36 senators for alleged misconduct, including the misuse of authority in violation of Thailand’s constitution. In February Shinawatra was also accused [JURIST report] of neglect of duty relating to her administration’s management of a multi-billion dollar rice subsidy program, allegedly ignoring multiple reports of corruption in how the subsidies were allocated. Political protests between Shinawatra’s supporters and detractors have been extremely volatile, prompting the government to declare [JURIST report] a state of emergency in January after escalating violence between protesters and police.