In a surprise move, Thailand's Army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha imposed martial law at 3 a.m. Tuesday in an attempt to end the country's sometimes violent protests.
It wasn't clear whether the army had informed the government before staging its action but the army chief said it wasn't staging a staging a coup d'état.
“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,” said Gen. Prayuth in a statement. He said the army would take over the government's special security command center—established last year to oversee the protests—and ordered other security forces, including the police, to report to the army.
But the declaration of martial law effectively removes the government and the police from the process of enforcing the law in Thailand.
Thailand is bitterly divided between supporters of its populist government and its conservative opponents who have been massing on the streets for over half a year in a bid to topple the administration. Over 24 people have been killed in political violence since the current wave of protests began in November, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The crisis reached a fresh peak earlier this month when Thailand's Constitutional Court removed Thaksin Shinawatra's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, from her post as the country's prime minister.
Antigovernment protesters, meanwhile, are now attempting to remove the rest of her administration and install a new, unelected government to pursue a series of reforms.
“Some foreign investors will dislike the martial law because it shows the situation is out of hand,” Prapas Tonpibulsak, chief investment officer at Krungsri Asset Management Co., which oversees about $7 billion in assets, told Bloomberg.