Pedestrians stroll past armed Thai soldiers outside the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Pic: AP.

In the early hours of Tuesday, May 20, 2014, the military declared martial law in Thailand, a move that would culminate in a full-scale coup d’etat three days later. Starting with the most recent events, the following is a timeline of the events of those three days.

+++THURSDAY MAY 20, 2014+++

Shortly after this a coup d’etat was declared by army Chief-of-Staff Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and the military took power. You can find a full timeline on that here.

4.34pm: The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand has issued a statement highlighting its concern about “restrictions imposed on media by the military authorities under the provisions of martial law declared on 20 May. It should be noted that these restrictions are among the harshest in Thailand’s recent history.” It adds:

We believe allowing the media to report current events in Thailand without official censorship will contribute to a better understanding of the crisis, and eventually to finding a solution. We urge the military authorities to remove restrictions on what journalists can report, and to allow the media to work without hindrance.

11.54am: Thai army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and the key players in the political crisis will meet at Army Headquarters at 2pm today to continue their search for a solution. Election Commissioner (EC) Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said yesterday that two options are being examined: election in five months from now; or elections in one or two years from now.

11.28am: The Appeals Court has upheld a six-month suspended sentence and a 50,000 baht (US$1,540) fine against red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan for defaming opposition leader and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

11.08am: The Thai army has displayed heavy weapons seized in Bangkok on Wednesday night:

9am: Six “inappropriate” websites have been blocked in Thailand under martial law, Prachathai reports. The special body set up to oversee Internet content insists it is “not censorship”. It is worth noting that Thai authorities also regularly blocked websites and content pre-martial law.

Thakorn Tanthasit, a NBTC commissioner, said six “inappropriate” websites have been blocked by cooperation of True corp, one of the biggest Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Thailand. The NBTC has also “asked for cooperation” from Thai ISP to shut down websites within one hour.

“This is to ask for cooperation to monitor content which may affect peace and order. THIS IS NOT CENSORSHIP AT ALL, but a blockade of only content or websites which may contravene to public morality and cause conflict and unrest and threat to national security,” the commissioner told media on Wednesday after a meeting between the censorship body and 105 Thai ISPs.

+++WEDNESDAY, MAY 21+++

10.00pm: The often quoted and often outspoken Election Commissioner (EC) Somchai Srisutthiyakorn has told the press today what he presented at the talks today:

“We have presented two solutions,” said Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn. “One option is a quick arrangement of elections five months from now … And the other option is an election in one or two years from now.”

Regardless of which option will be adopted, Mr. Somchai said, all relevant parties must present mechanisms that will guarantee the new Prime Minister and Cabinet take power in a legal manner that is genuinely accepted by all sides. (…)

Next Election May Take Place ’1-2 Years’ From Now“, Khaosod English, May 21, 2014

And there’s also this by the EC:

8.20pm: Bangkok Pundit has a good round-up of reports on today’s meeting at the Army Club: Thai military forces both sides to the table… but no resolution

There is just a fundamental difference between both sides and this makes compromise hard. Perhaps, the negotiating positions of all sides will be clearer tomorrow on where they are willing to compromise…

7.24pm:

6.26pm: Earlier today, the erratic PDRC co-leader Dr. Seri Wongmontha was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport on insurrection charges, but has been released on bail this evening already.

4.25pm: The army is currently meeting with Internet service providers in Bangkok. There is significant concern that websites and social media will be censored.

4.15pm: The meeting between army chief Prayuth and the key political players to discuss the crisis is now over. The meeting was closed to the media and no details of what was discussed have emerged so far.

2.40pm: The pick by the senators for General Prawit as “neutral PM” isn’t coincidental, but also something that the red shirts and the government absolutely won’t like, as a Reuters story from last year reveals:

The forces behind Suthep are led by former defense minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and former army chief General Anupong Paochinda, towering figures in Thailand’s military establishment, (…)

Prawit and Anupong had expressed readiness to intervene if there was a security crisis, such as a crackdown by police on protesters or clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators, and if Suthep’s plan for an interim government was constitutional, said the source with military connections. (…)

“Suthep is playing the game on the outside while Prawit tries to play the game on the inside,” said a senior military official who could not be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “General Prawit has been clear about his aspirations to become prime minister.”

Powerful forces revealed behind Thai protest movement“, Reuters, December 13, 2014

2pm: Thai television is reporting that Prawit Wongsuwan could be proposed as the next Prime Minister. He’s a retired army officer who was formerly commander-in-chief of the Thai army and later minister of defence. Read more about him here.

1.38pm: There are reports that Thailand’s interim Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan has been invited to join today’s high-level political talks at the last minute. There is no confirmation at this point on whether he will attend. Niwatthamrong and the government have been notably absent from the dialogue over the last two days.

1.01pm: The main stakeholders in Thailand’s political crisis are arriving at the Army Club in Bangkok for talks. Security is tight and media professionals are being tightly controlled. Security forces have told them not to take images of anyone arriving for the meeting, even outside the venue.

10.53am: On the second day of martial law in Thailand high level meetings continue behind closed doors. Army chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha is due to meet many of the main players at the Army Club in Bangkok at 1.30pm.

9.55am: There are reports that army officials will be meeting with Thai Internet service providers this afternoon. The possibility of some form of Internet and/or social media censorship is very real. Facebook, LINE and Twitter would likely be the first targets if the military clamps down on social media.

9.28am: The anti-government PDRC has announced plans to protest outside designated areas from Friday to Monday.

8.53am: Bangkok Pundit on the anti-government movement’s reaction to martial law:

From listening to Suthep, he is pleased about the declaration of martial law (talks about how he loves Prayuth now and he generally sounds upbeat), but he hasn’t got what he wanted so is not letting up (for now).

A Buddhist monk walks past a Thai soldier near the pro-government demonstration site on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday. Pic: AP.

8.34am: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for restraint from all parties after the declaration of martial law Wednesday:

The way to secure Thailand’s peace and prosperity is through full respect for democratic principles and engagement in democratic processes.

8.12am: Associated Press reports that the US will not impose sanctions on Thailand after the declaration of martial law:

The US says the Thai military’s declaration of martial law is allowed by the nation’s constitution and its actions to date will not trigger sanctions.

+++TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2014+++

9.50pm: The army has issued its 11th statement, this time with army spokesman Colonel Vinthai Suvari making an appearance, clarifying that the order to invoke martial law has been submitted to the caretaker government (albeit with initial problems since they sent it to the wrong building first), also pledges to ensure foreigners’ safety and their embassies and reiterates that academics and other pundits should be “careful” when expressing their opinions publicly.

8.40pm: Thai army issues 10th statement, forbidding possession of weapons that could be used to disturb peace.

8.30pm: There’s no denying that media and free speech are severely affected, if not openly censored now by today’s martial law. While the military seems to have a tight grip on the TV stations, we’re not sure how they will act against social media users they deem dissenting.

8.05pm: Fourteen television stations have now been taken off air in Thailand, including Voice TV, which is owned by Panthongtae Shinawatra, the son of divisive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

7.55pm: The Thai army has issued its 9th statement of the day:

7.20pm: In its latest announcement the Thai army said it will shut down and prosecute any services seen to be inciting violence or disrespecting the law through social media. The statement says that social media users could also face prosecution.

7.00pm: The interim cabinet of acting caretaker prime minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan have (finally) showed up:

5.51pm: Opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has issued the following statement on his Facebook page:

Pic: Facebook.

5.32pm: A number of embassies and foreign ministries issued updated advisories on travel in Thailand today. The general message was that it’s okay to travel but caution should be exercised. More on that here: Thailand under martial law: What does it mean for tourists?

5.27pm: Fellow Asian Correspondent blogger Bangkok Pundit is also updating and has this to say:

BP is a little surprised at the timing. Prayuth is essentially using the deaths of 3 last week to stage the intervention to restore law-and-order. Yes, there has been sporadic violence for months, but fewer people have died in the last 6 months than your average month of violence in Thailand’s Deep South. It is more of a pre-emptive intervention.

Thai Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, right, speaks as navy Chief Adm. Narong Pipatthanasant, left, looks on during a meeting with high ranking officials at the Army Club in Bangkok after declaring martial law Tuesday. Pic: AP.

3.34pm: The Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army Gen. Prayuth Chan Ocha spoke to the press in Bangkok after meeting government officials and heads of major government agencies. He called on both sides to come together to find a solution. He said the country needs to move on as quickly as possible so he needed everybody’s help. He said the shut down of television station was temporary, but added that censorship would be in place for “as long as necessary”.

A couple of key, telling moments from the press conference:

  • When asked about if his actions require the approval of the government and what its status is, his response was: “Where is the government?”
  • When asked if a curfew would be imposed, he “jokingly” threatened to impose a curfew on the media first: “How about a curfew for the press?!”

3.29pm: Thailand’s acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan has said in a statement that the military must “proceed within the constitution”. He added: “Any actions need to follow a peaceful path, without violence, discrimination and with equality based on the rule of law.”

3.05pm: At least one PDRC leader is saying that protests will go on despite declaration of martial law:

2.30pm: The meeting has started, the press are NOT allowed to listen in:

2.00pm: A “meeting” set up by the military “inviting” government officials and heads of government agencies is set to begin shortly. May be we will know what the next moves by the military are.

1.25pm: A recap by AP on the announcements by the military so far:

So far, they have announced these bans or measures on national television:

- Protesters gathered in Bangkok cannot march outside of their protest sites.

- Ten politically affiliated satellite and cable TV stations, including those funded by pro- and anti-government protest movements, are asked to stop broadcasting until further notice.

- TV and radio stations should interrupt any regular programming for army broadcasts.

- Any broadcast or publication that could “incite unrest” is banned.

- Police should hand over reinforcements to the military if requested.

Typically, under martial law soldiers also have authority to enter and search private property and make seizures in the name of keeping peace.

Thailand under martial law and what it means“, Associated Press, May 20, 2014

12.25pm:

11.55am: The US State Department issued a statement this morning. Here are the key excerpts:

We remain very concerned about the deepening political crisis in Thailand and urge all parties to respect democratic principles, including respect for freedom of speech.

The United States firmly believes all parties must work together to resolve differences through dialogue and find a way forward. This development underscores the need for elections to determine the will of the Thai people.

11.40am: Toppled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra has now tweeted (for the first time since last August, by the way), hoping that the martial law will not “lead to the repression of human rights and undermining of democracy, since it might worsen Thailand’s image in the eyes of the world.”

11.20am: Soldiers have reclaimed a building at Government House occupied by the anti-government protesters without resistance

Meanwhile at the red shirts:

The military is trying to convince the Red Shirts to end their gathering, according to Paradorn Pattanatabut, chief security adviser to Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan. “The military is negotiating with the Red Shirts to disperse,” he said.

Soldiers “surround” pro-government rally : Jatuporn“, The Nation, May 20, 2014

11.10am: The 7th army announcement (now including an English translation) has requested government officials and heads of govt agencies and state enterprises to meet the military at the Army Club in Bangkok at 2pm.

10.55am: Independent legal analyst Veerapat Pareeyawong provides some context in the current situation via Facebook:

The situation in Thailand is uncertain but at least one thing is very clear: the military has two obvious choices: either use this opportunity to create a secured and inclusive environment for election and reform under civilian government; or to push for a pseudo-legitimate process that replaces the caretaking government with transitional guarantees for the traditional elites.

With full powers in its hand there is no more excuse for the military to remain reluctant. The unmasking moment is coming.

10.53am:

10.48am: Meanwhile at the pro-government red shirt rally site on the outskirts of Bangkok:

10.45am: The military have already created an organization with a catchy name to overlook the enforcement of the martial law…

10.25am:

Prime Minister’s Secretary General Suranand Vejjajiva has announced that, following the imposition of the Martial Law by Army Chief and Director of the Internal Peace-Keeping Command General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the cabinet headed by Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan has decided to hold an emergency meeting today, in order to assess the national situation.

Mr. Suranand said that the public will be informed of the meeting’s result at its conclusion. He said the cabinet session will be conducted at an undisclosed safe house.

Acting PM Niwatthamrong calls an emergency cabinet meeting“, National News Bureau, May 20, 2014

10.20am:

10.14am: The army has just ordered in yet another televised announcement that several community radio stations and several satellite TV stations including the red shirts’ DNN Asia Update and the anti-government’s Blue Sky Channel and ASTV to stop broadcasting, effectively cutting off their media outlets and mouthpieces!

9.53am: It becomes very clear that the interim government has been caught off guard by the military’s move today:

The Thai army declared martial law throughout the country Tuesday in a surprise move that an aide to the embattled Prime Minister said the government didn’t know about beforehand.

“They took this action unilaterally. The government is having a special meeting regarding this. We have to watch and see if the army chief honors his declaration of impartiality,” the aide said, describing the situation as “half a coup d’etat.”

Army declares martial law in Thailand; government wasn’t informed, aide says“, CNN, May 20, 2014

9.16am: Most recent army TV announcement warns mass media outlets and social media users from “disseminating news” that could negatively “affect national security,” effectively enforcing censorship.

8.45am: Another army TV announcement:

8.05am: The Nation reports:

Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha summoned chiefs of government agencies to report themselves at the Royal Army Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road at 9 am.

That also includes the Election Commission for example…!

7.57am: The interim government of acting caretaker prime minister Niwatthamrong has not been publicly seen so far but there’s some proof of life – the question is for how long?

7.44am: The military has made another TV announcement, reading out the second communique (also signed by Prayuth) from earlier today, which has dissolved CAPO. Also pointing to Article 6 of the Martial Law:

Section 6: Within the area under the Martial Law, the military authority shall have superior power over the civil authority in regard to military operation, desistence or suppression, or keeping public order. The civil authority shall act in compliance with the requirements of the military authority.

7.38am: The military communiques from earlier today and Prayuth’s announcement have specifically pointed out Article 2 and 4 of the Martial Law Act of 1914, but that doesn’t mean all the others – specifically the harsher ones – are off-limits. More on the various security laws can be read in a post by Bangkok Pundit here.

What do Article 2 and 4 say?

Section 2: Whenever there is necessity to preserve good order so as to be free from external or internal danger, a Royal Proclamation may be issued enforcing all or certain sections of the Martial Law or part of any section of it including the conditions under which such provision or provisions shall apply to the whole or any part of the Kingdom; and after the proclamation has been made at any time or in any area, all the provisions of any act or law which are inconsistent with the provisions of the Martial Law which is in force shall be suspended and replaced by the provisions of the Martial Law which is in force.

Section 4: If there is war or insurrection in any area, the commander of military forces at least one battalion, or of any military fort, barracks or forfeited area, which has the power and duty to protect such area, shall have the power to proclaim the Martial Law within his or her responsible area. In this case, the proclamation of the Martial Law shall be reported to the Government immediately.

But here’s one crucial article not pointed out by Prayuth that could have very severe implications:

7.04am: Both pro- and anti-government protesters are reacting to the martial law announcement with caution:

6.37am: Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha just made a TV announcement, repeating the martial law declaration reported earlier in the media and the need to intervene. He urges both sides to remain peaceful and the public not to panic.

6.30am:

6.12am: First early report by Associated Press:

Thailand’s army declared martial law in a surprise announcement in Bangkok before dawn on Tuesday, intensifying the turbulent nation’s deepening political crisis. It was not immediately clear whether a coup d’etat was underway.

The move came after six months of anti-government demonstrations aimed at ousting the government and one day after the Southeast Asian country’s caretaker prime minister refused to step down.

The army said in a statement that it had taken the action to “keep peace and order” and soldiers entered several private television stations that are sympathetic to protesters.

A ticker on Channel 5, an army station, however, denied the military was taking over, saying “the invocation of martial law is not a coup.”

Thailand’s army has staged at 11 successful coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

6.10am: For the record, this was reported yesterday:

6.00am: While you wouldn’t have noticed what just happened if you’d watch Thai TV until now (except for a ticker on army-owned Channel 5), private-owned Channel 3 are now reporting the news in their morning show:

5.56am: In a second communique from about an hour ago, the military has also ordered the Center for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), the government agency tasked with overlooking the security situation, to cease its operation.

5.46am: Since 3am Tuesday morning the army has declared martial law nationwide as per this document, reasoning the need for the intervention because of “groups with bad intentions creating a violent situation with war weapons against the people.” The order is signed by army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

5.30am: Soldiers have been spotted at several TV stations across Bangkok: