BANGKOK, Thailand — The head of Thailand's army declared what he described as nationwide martial law early today and urged protesters who have paralyzed the government and blocked elections to "stop their movement." The order also appeared to apply to pro-government demonstrators who are leading a separate protest.
In a country where the army has staged more than a dozen coups in recent decades it was not immediately clear what degree of control the military planned to take this time. The presence of soldiers on the streets of Bangkok was relatively sparse early today.
"The army intends to bring peace to the beloved country of all Thais as soon as possible," Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of the army, said in a nationally televised speech broadcast at 6:30 a.m. "We would like to urge people from every group to stop their movement in order to quickly find a sustainable solution for the country."
Prayuth said martial law had been imposed "to keep peace and order efficiently and to bring back peace to the people."
Prayuth cited "ill-willed people who created violence by using weapons of war" for his decision. More than 25 people have been killed in political violence since the protests began six months ago.
Soldiers went to TV stations before dawn, telling them they should broadcast the speech.
A movement to oust the government has the backing of the Bangkok establishment and is seeking to put in place an appointed prime minister.