BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, declared martial law on Tuesday after months of political unrest, saying he wanted to end the violence and bring rival groups together for talks.
Although life in the capital Bangkok went on much as normal, armed troops patrolled the streets, several television channels were suspended, a government security agency was dissolved and rival protest groups were ordered not to move from their camps.
Under a law enacted in 1914, Thailand’s army commander has the authority to declare martial law in the event of war or insurrection to maintain order and protect the country against internal or external dangers. Once imposed, it can only be revoked by the palace with a royal decree.
Following are more details on its provisions:
- In the area where martial law is imposed, the army assumes command over civilian authorities including the police and other state agencies.
- The military has full power to search citizens, vehicles, homes and buildings; it can inspect messages, letters, parcels, books and other publications.
- It can prohibit meetings or gatherings, restrict print and broadcast media and limit movement by land, water or air.
- It can seize assets that might be used to help “the enemy”.
- It can bar the possession or use of weapons and “communication devices”.
- If there are reasonable grounds to suspect a person is an enemy or has violated martial law, the military has the power to detain that person for investigation for up to seven days.
- While civilian courts still function, a military court may oversee cases involving offences committed while martial law is in place.
- The military has the power to enlist citizens to support its endeavours.
- So far, under the current martial law, the army has forced 10 satellite television channels to stop broadcasting, including stations run by pro- and anti-government groups.
- It dissolved the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), the security body handling the protests that was overseen by the government, and replaced it with the army-controlled Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC).
- Martial law is overseen by the supreme commander of the armed forced, the heads of the army, navy and air force, and the national police chief.
- Martial law was last imposed around the country in 2006 after a military coup to oust Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
- Thaksin is at the centre of the present crisis, the power behind the government of his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was forced out by the Constitutional Court this month, and behind the acting government now clinging to office.
Reporting by Pairat Temphairojana and Alisa Tang; Editing by Alan Raybould and Alex Richardson