The Royal Thai Army has imposed martial law in a bid to restore law and order in the country, following six months of turbulent political crisis.
Thai Army chief general Prayuth Chan-Ocha was quoted by Reuters as saying that the military was assuming responsibility of public security, in the wake of violent protests that had claimed several lives.
"We are concerned this violence could harm the country’s security in general. In order to restore law and order to the country, we have declared martial law," Chan-Ocha said.
An announcement on the military-run television station Channel 5 said the move does not amount to a coup d’etat, and noted: "The public do not need to panic but can still live their lives as normal."
Soon after the declaration, the military, which has staged 11 coups since the 1932 revolution, secured numerous TV and radio stations in Bangkok, and also ordered media censorship in the interests of ‘national security’.
The move, which grants wide-ranging powers to the army, comes a day after the country’s interim Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan refused to step down despite long-running protests aimed at ousting the government.
Thai Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri said the army has not consulted with the cabinet on the declaration, but welcomed the move to restore order.
"The government doesn’t have a problem with this and can govern the country as normal," Nitisiri said.
Thailand has witnessed several demonstrations since November 2013. Last month, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine cabinet ministers were ousted from office on charges of nepotism and power abuse.
At least 28 people have died in the protests, with hundreds of others injured.