[JURIST] Thailand’s new military junta leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile], announced on Thursday the military has seized control of the country and suspended its constitution. Chan-ocha became the leader of Thailand’s army in 2010 and has proclaimed an interest in keeping the army neutral, but over the years his ties to the political system have strengthened. The general issued a televised statement in which he stated [Guardian report] the takeover was necessary “in order for the country to return to normality quickly,” and he announced the military would take power as of 4:30 PM local time on Thursday. In a separate statement, a spokesperson for the army told the former acting prime minister, Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, and his ministers to report to a military compound in northern Bangkok. According to the BBC the army has staged at least 12 coups [BBC report] since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. Despite restrictions on TV, Internet, and other news under current martial law, news organizations are providing updates [CNN video report; BBC timeline] from Thailand.
Political instability in Thailand has increased over the past month after a number of key political officials were removed and the military declared martial law [JURIST report] on Tuesday. General Chan-ocha, 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. On May 7 the Thai Constitutional Court [official website, in English] ordered [JURIST report] 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. The decision also removed [WSJ report] several other cabinet members from their positions. In late April Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) [official website] indicted 36 senators [JURIST report] for alleged misconduct, including the misuse of authority in violation of Thailand’s constitution. The indictment was a response to the senators’ attempt to make amendments to the constitution.